By Lashawnda Becoats
We were on a mission as we walked through the streets in Brooklyn, past bodegas and nail salons. It was a hot summer day and my friends were tired of all the walking. Bars and restaurants
called their names, but I wouldn’t stop until I found it. When I turned the corner, there it was.
The mural of famous artist Jean–Michel Basquiat.
I jumped up and down and squealed with joy. It was more colorful and detailed than the photos I had seen online.
I love street art. I always have, since I was a teenager growing up in New York City. It was called graffiti back then. I was fascinated by what looked liked colorful scribble-scrabble spray-painted on the sides of subway cars and walls everywhere. I saw this art displayed throughout the city as freedom of expression, but others saw it as an eyesore, a public nuisance.
Fast-forward. Graffiti has morphed into a popular art form known as street art or murals, and it’s gaining respect around the world.
My childhood interest turned into an obsession about six years ago, when I began to chase and photograph street art in cities around the world.
Let me explain.
As an avid traveler, I use Instagram as a tool to find murals in different cities. Some of my favorite accounts to follow are: streetartglobe, catscoffeecreativity, basstreetart, andre_trenier and spreadartnyc.
Over the last few years, I have photographed murals in places such as Richmond, New York, Philadelphia and Asheville. I’ve even gone around the globe to Hong Kong, Paris and London and seen murals the size of 20-story buildings.
In Buenos Aires (also known as the street art capital of the world), there are thousands of spray-painted and hand-painted murals decorating the city. While visiting, I took a guided street art tour. It was intriguing to learn that it is still considered illegal for artists to paint on buildings, unless they’ve been commission by a business owner or homeowner. Also, what was once a hobby for many artists has turned into a professional career.
After the tour, we hunted for the famous mural of artist Frida Kahlo, and when I found it, once again it felt like I had won the lottery.
Now, I don’t have to travel far to get my art fix. Street art murals are finally popping up all over Charlotte. I remember when the Hornets’ mural on the side of the Wachovia building uptown in the ‘90s was the only prominent mural. Now, the city is finally catching up with other cities.
If you look around, you’ll see fun commissioned works of art in Uptown, South End, Noda and Plaza Midwood, on the sides on businesses, adding that add flavor to their exteriors.
Some of my favorite murals so far are the Bob Marley on the side of High Life on Central Avenue, the rapper Biggie Smalls on Independence Boulevard at car wash and the Obama and Muhammad Ali images on the outside of Renaissance Tattoo shop.
As the art form continues to grow, the more colorful our city becomes. Maybe one day others will travel to Charlotte to chase the art.