From graffiti to murals, Phoenix is the home to a thriving street art scene

Local artists promote graffiti as a way to express culture and self-identity

The bustling streets of downtown Phoenix are becoming a blank canvas for the visions of Phoenix street artists who strive to make their communities more colorful.

Many of their murals are on Roosevelt Row, a creative district in the urban core of downtown Phoenix where art thrives through painted murals on restaurant walls and in galleries.

Tato Caraveo, who's known for the unique character designs and vibrant colors in his murals, said one of the biggest reasons he creates these works is his appreciation for the art form. 

"I’ve done art since I was very young, got more serious in high school and got into graffiti art, which eventually led to mural art, which is my main focus now," Caraveo said.

Caraveo says that creating art can benefit communities by making them more lively.

"Murals add color to the city, making it more vibrant than all the beige-colored walls we're used to seeing in these parts, and also becomes interactive with the viewers," Caraveo said. 

He said that he normally does not try to project a message in his work unless the occasion calls for it, but that mural art can definitely give a voice to certain communities and inspire youths from lower income areas to pursue art. 

One of Caraveo's work that can be found on Roosevelt Row. 

Hannah Reim, a journalism sophomore who was a part of the now-defunct ASU Graffiti Gang, which explored and reported on graffiti in the Valley, said her and the group focused on street art and made an effort to reclaim "graffiti" as a positive word.

The website focused on the prominent graffiti culture and signature murals in the Valley.

"I think graffiti is beautiful both visually and in its creation," Reim said. "Especially in Phoenix, the effort of so many amazing artists to show that graffiti can benefit a city as art instead of a crime is awesome." 

She said her favorite mural in Phoenix is "Bienvenidos a Arizona,"  by Gennaro Garcia and DOSE, which was made in response to a controversial immigration law in Arizona. 

Vibrant Street Art Mural: "Bienvenidos a Arizona," Phoenix, Arizona

"That mural completely transformed Calle 16," Reim said, referring to a non-profit that promotes Mexican-American culture. "There's a whole story to it, and I recommend everyone learn about the Phoenix art scene. The amount of support between the Latinx and Native American communities and the art community in Arizona is amazing."

Isabella Frost, a film junior, said graffiti is a social form of art through which artists can communicate with the public.

"With graffiti, there is always a message or opinion behind its art," Frost said. "Why do you think it’s being yelled on the side of buildings or train cars? Graffiti is communication."

She also said graffiti in Arizona, along with other art-forms such as tattooing and painting, are underappreciated. 

"I feel like the graffiti in Phoenix is very representative of Arizona," Frost said. "It’s about our heavy Hispanic culture or who we are and where we might have come from to be in Arizona."


Reach the reporter at pthaung@asu.edu or follow @seaboiii on Twitter.

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