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8 Surprising Cities With Amazing Street Art

Houston, Texas
8 Surprising Cities With Amazing Street Art
Anyone with an interest in urban art is familiar with New York City's hip hop–infused graffiti history and the mural-splashed alleyways of Melbourne. But in more recent years, new cities are emerging with cutting-edge street art scenes, with classes, tours, and street art festivals encouraging further growth through community gathering. And with political climates heating up as fast as the Earth’s surface, the timing couldn’t be better for vibrant visual expression from local artists in public places. Consider planning your next trip to one of the following eight cities, where the graffiti and street art can teach you more about each one than most museums could.
Photo by Veronica Meewes
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    Houston, Texas
    Houston, Texas
    Last fall, the third HUE Mural Festival (now a biannual event) took over Houston, bringing citywide tours, celebrations, film screenings, and live paintings to the sprawling metropolis. The weeklong street art festival, which features artists from across the globe, has significantly helped to brighten and beautify previously neglected neighborhoods. One of the organizers, local artist Gonzo247, launched the nonprofit Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas as a means of preserving and promoting the history and culture of street art. And plenty of temporary public art can be found throughout the city, which supports projects like 360 Degrees Vanishing, an installation of mounted South African beaded tapestries, and Art Blocks, just one piece of downtown’s continued revitalization as the biggest city in Texas. Keep your eyes open for its next iteration in 2019.

    Plan Your Trip: Houston
    Photo by Veronica Meewes
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    Kiev, Ukraine
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Years after protests throughout Ukraine’s capital led to the ousting of the president, the city is filled with mammoth murals, many of them political in nature. While much of this post-Soviet graffiti began with anti-Russian and pro-peace expressions in Maidan Square—the center of the Ukrainian revolution—beautiful street art can be found on walls across Kiev. For an easy self-guided tour, use the website KyivMural.com, which catalogues the city's street art in a handy Google map, or download the separate Kyiv Murals app on iOS.

    Plan Your Trip: Kiev
    Photo by Veronica Meewes
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    San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
    San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
    In recent years, Mexico has seen an explosion of high-quality art on the streets of its cities. San Miguel de Allende, in particular, which already had exceptional art galleries, now has a flourishing street art scene in Colonia Guadalupe, the first arts district in the UNESCO World Heritage city. In 2013, the city initiated the Muros en Blanco (“Blank Walls”) project, inviting 33 young street artists from around the globe to come paint the town. These days, a Muros en Blanco partnership with GraffitiWorld.tv offers an artist residency. The street art, like the rest of the city, is bursting with color and Mexican culture, featuring imagery of the Virgin of Guadalupe, papel picado, sugar skulls, lotería, serape print, and more. For a guided tour, meet in front of Margarito Ledesma #2 on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. The 300 peso price supports the Muros en Blanco Distrito de Arte project.

    Plan Your Trip: San Miguel de Allende
    Photo courtesy Muros en Blanco/Facebook
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    Perth, Western Australia
    Perth, Western Australia
    Melbourne’s graffiti-covered lanes and arcades have become as much of a tourist attraction as the city’s flourishing food and beverage scene. But across the vast continent, Perth is home to so many beautiful murals that they’ve been mapped online by neighborhood, encouraging visitors to plan their own walking tours of the city. A majority lie in Northbridge, a neighborhood bustling with shops and nightlife. The capital of Western Australia also has a State Graffiti Taskforce, which supports urban art projects in an effort to prevent graffiti vandalism.

    Plan Your Trip: Perth
    Photo by Veronica Meewes
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    Richmond, Virginia
    Richmond, Virginia
    A variety of community-led art projects make Richmond, Virginia, a spot for street art. From 2012-2016, the Richmond Mural Project completed its goal of painting 100 murals over five years, welcoming artists both local and global to beautify the city. The RVA Street Art Festival supports youth art education. Formerly held in a variety of locations, including the downtown canal walk and the old GRTC bus depot, the festival regularly allows artists to bring color to the city while educating participants on local history and culture. And modern murals aren’t the city’s only form of street art: Preserved hand-painted advertisements are still visible on historic brick buildings throughout the Fan, Church Hill, and Shockoe Bottom.

    Plan Your Trip: Richmond
    Photo by Veronica Meewes
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    Montreal, Québec
    Montreal, Québec
    The largest city in the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec is also a huge proponent of street art. Montreal has invested money in the creation of permanent murals in different boroughs, as well as a project to beautify the highway connecting its airport to downtown. Every summer since 2012, the MURAL urban art festival has taken over Saint-Laurent Boulevard with block parties, live painting and art projects, street sales, and live music for 10 days straight. And Under Pressure, which focuses on graffiti rather than murals, is the longest running festival of its kind in North America. Between the two festivals, Montreal is filled with street art of every size, shape, and style.

    Plan Your Trip: Montreal
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    Fort Smith, Arkansas
    Fort Smith, Arkansas

    If someone were to drop a street art festival where you’d least expect it, Arkansas might be the spot. So The Unexpected is an appropriate name for the big contemporary and public art project, now in its fourth year, that takes over downtown Fort Smith, brightening the city with epic works of art. Walls aren't always the canvas either; sometimes arches, repurposed cars, and high-rises display street artists' creative imaginings—depending on the year.

    Plan Your Trip: Arkansas

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    Lima, Peru
    Lima, Peru
    The capital of Peru is splashed with colorful chicha-style murals (don't miss the neighborhood of Barranco), and street art has played a recent role in artistic rebellion. A few years ago, despite resistance from current mayor Luis Castañeda, who painted the yellow color of his election campaign over 60 murals that had been painted when previous mayor Susan Villarán, a huge proponent for community and the arts, was in office. In true renegade spirit, outraged and inspired street artists added new murals at a rapid rate, even using the hashtag #BorraronUnoPintaremosMil (“You erased one, we will paint a thousand”). 

    Plan Your Trip: Lima
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