Last Monday, I braved the scorching 100-and-something-degree heat in search of the latest street art updates in the center of downtown Phoenix. Making my way up and down Roosevelt (and some of its more shady alleys) a few trends became obvious.
The first was that a lot of “street art” murals and stickers are sponsored by businesses, acting as advertisements for their companies. While these pieces, like the mural for MariSol Federal Credit Union, showcase talent and beautiful artistry, they don’t effectively represent the definition of street art. The semi-legal practice is meant to be underground and dangerous, not planned and carefully constructed by public relations experts.
At the same time, however, a lot of local businesses simply want to highlight their own talent. I can understand the point of painting the exterior of the local comic book store, cafe or flower shop, but sporting murals on banks and government buildings sends a mixed message.
This is due to the second trend I picked up on: the fact that the City of Phoenix takes the business of cleaning up vandalism seriously. Neighborhood Program Coordinator William Hogans noted that his team of volunteer “blight blusters” (started in 2011) removed over 60,000 cites of vandalism last year in Phoenix alone. Hogans added that the difference between street art and vandalism is “vandalism is any act or art that is put onto anyone else’s property without their permission.” (Read the the City of Phoenix’s official graffiti prevention code here.)
While I personally wouldn’t want anyone vandalizing my business without my permission, a lot of the street art is so engaging that it’s a shame to see it cleaned up so quickly. For example, once the “Dapper Panda” butler that many First Friday attendees came to know and love on Roosevelt and Central (photo here from previous art blogger Alexandria Conrad), the poor bear is now quite literally extinct — painted over and hardly visible to passersby. More and more posters, stickers and paintings are quickly being torn down (or tagged over) as well.
While part of the allure of street art revolves around its temporary status, it’s sad to see a lot of talented pieces desecrated or destroyed. But in the end, a lot of artists knowingly choose different points of private property to make a statement.
In order to preserve some of these pieces, I photographed as many as I could as I walked around downtown. Enjoy the photos below and look forward to some exciting new content next week!