PAINTING THE TOWN

Street-Art-3Love it or loathe it, street art is now a regular fixture on urban landscapes across the world. Its culprits have risen from underground protestors to international art icons, and many of us have street art-inspired prints hanging on a wall.

In Bristol, home to Banksy, the council has embraced street art like no other UK city, providing spaces for those that do, to do their thing. And the Bristol Museum’s Banksy exhibition in 2009 attracted 300,000 visitors in 16 weeks, more than it usually gets in a year. In Berlin, street art World HQ, the city is too poor to clear up the proliferation, and a huge tourist industry now marches millions of visitors around the various works.

Should Birmingham capitalise on this?

Becci and Carl – creators of website birminghamstreetart.co.uk – think it should. They set about chronicling the pieces that appear – often very briefly – around the city and see street art as a way to put a smile on people’s faces: “If you turn a corner and see a dinosaur with an umbrella sat on a wall and blowing bubbles, it’s fun.” Quite. On the other hand plenty of people, including the council, see it as a mess.

Birmingham is built on industry, not tidiness, but is reinventing itself as a city to live and play. Part of playing is access to culture, having creative people around, and feeling their presence. Without them, we might as well live in Dubai. The interest in street art is massive, but is it only ok so long as it’s not on the street? If it’s kept in a gallery, or can be bought and framed, does that make it more acceptable?

“Street Art stretches your mind,

Graffiti Tagging is a slap in your face.”

That’s a bold statement from website graffitiactionhero.org, but we do see the point. Street Art often provokes the mind, but a Graffiti Tag – even when the tagger manages to spell their name right – rarely gets one’s cogs turning.

So should we embrace it? Should Birmingham go for it as capital of Street Art in The Midlands? Or do we leave it Bristol to wear the crown for England uncontested?