Words by Scott Pollock
Over the decades, the general public have associated Graffiti and Street Art with terms such as spontaneous, challenging authority, social commentary, and sometimes even vandalism. Although acceptance of this art form is slowly increasing, the road toward it is very complex.
There are numerous publications, community groups and education-based businesses that support this process. Two such enterprises are Culture Scouts and Street Art Murals Australia (SAMA). Culture Scouts hosts regular tours that showcase and explain this sub-culture, whereas SAMA has numerous roles and processes to help the art form gain due respect. One of their roles is to support young artists by fostering social inclusion, and advocating Street Art legitimacy on a national stage.
SAMA’s founder, Jarrod Wheatley, is constantly happy to offer assistance in any avenue which will educate or break down some of the barriers for his fellow street artists.
One of the simplest questions that arises here is also one of the hardest to answer - what is the difference between graffiti and street art?
Jarrod managed to answer this with clarity,
One of the big issues that street artists have to contend with is that the majority of their work is classified as illegal. Although the artists can lodge a Development Application for street murals and alike, this tends to take away the spontaneity of the process, and also the stance against authority which some see as a necessary part of this sub-culture.
Our current laws regarding graffiti have severe consequences, consequences which SAMA believe are disproportionate to the act itself. “I think that street artists should be able to easily pursue their art form legally,” says Jarrod.
Identifying whether street art is 'vandalism' or 'art' is another grey area. Like all art, the plethora of style and genre is so large that what some people call art, others will not. This is another example where legality seems to dictate how street art is defined. Jarrod pointed out that a recent Western Sydney University study (yet to be published) found that community members indicated that the quality of the art, rather than its legality, influenced their opinions. It appears that most people are more concerned with seeing quality art in the public domain, and less concerned by who if anyone, approved the artwork.
Jarrod suggested that if our aim is to have quality art painted on the streets, save tax payer dollars and increase social inclusion, then we should steer the conversation in the direction of a healthy and vibrant street art culture, rather than waging a war against graffiti.
So, how does Culture Scouts help support the same intentions of SAMA? Culture Scouts classic Newtown + Enmore tour ultimately aims to celebrate street art throughout the inner suburbs of Sydney. One of the main tour guides is Melinda Vassallo, the author of Street Art of the Inner West, a creative mind who has spent the last 15 years photographing, researching and advising graffiti and art of all forms found on Sydney's streets. Melinda is a mighty storyteller, making her tours incredibly engaging and informative. For this reason, Culture Scouts is helping this genre to be, as Jarrod says, a healthy and vibrant street art culture rather than another pawn in the war against graffiti.
For anyone who is considering entry into this interesting world of art, see below for a few do’s and don’ts from Jarrod Wheatley:
- Always look to create a unique style. Originality is king.
- Learn about the roots of the culture, you can start by watching a documentary called Style Wars.
- Sketching is your friend. Draw as much as you can, you can save yourself a lot of time and money if you learn with pencil and paper before you bring your designs to a wall.
- Disrespecting other people’s art will get you in trouble pretty quickly. Don’t, “bomb” the background, “cross” or “cap” people’s work.
- Every local scene has their own rules, but you can pretty much guarantee that no one thinks private cars, religious buildings, war memorials or cemeteries qualify as appropriate canvases.
* header image by Will Coles, @mrwillcoles