From breathtaking murals spanning entire buildings in Poland to gorgeous calligraffiti (a mix of graffiti and typography) in remote corners of Tunisia, Google Cultural Institute’s new Street Art Project, which launched June 10, aims to capture art from the streets before it disappears forever.
The vast collection, which features over 5,000 works of art, is organized by artist, location, style and medium. The street art world map is entirely populated with images chosen by curators at 30 partnering cultural organizations in 15 different countries, including Palais de Tokyo, São Paulo Street Art and the Museum of the City of New York. In addition to mapping photos of current works, the Street Art Project provides documentation of work that is closed to the public or no longer exists. For instance, there is an entire collection devoted to the preservation of Long Island City graffiti mecca 5Pointz, which was whitewashed late last year by the building’s owners.
read more: World’s Street Art Finds Its Gallery With Google. newsweek, 11.06.14.
The inclusion of local people in the future-fantasy panel was particularly crucial to the concept of this mural, because I strived to conjure up a vision for a more uplifting, welcoming, convivial and beautiful environment in this neighborhood *without a change in population*—in other words: improvement without gentrification.
For the same reason, I tried to let this utopian painting “grow from below”—through a participatory process that I describe further [here], and through relationships with the neighborhood that were deepened through the sheer length of time spent on this mural, witnessing and engaging with the street.
The inclusion of all these community members made the wall a remarkable meeting place for people of all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. People who had been painted into the mural would repeatedly return along with a posse of friends or family members, and sometimes more than one such group would show up at the same time. When that occurred, they’d often end up talking to each other—even if they belonged to groups that I didn’t usually see interacting in the streets.
I was told several accounts of the mural functioning as a community mixer in this way even when I wasn’t there, for example: “We came last night… and those folks over there whom I always see but never talked to were here too… we ended up shaking hands…”
It is when this type of thing happens that the mural is “working”, and its goals are accomplished.