In case it's not obvious, I have a bit of a penchant for urban art. Fortunately, i'm not in bad company in Houston. As little as ten years ago a campaign of public beautification in this city would have been chiefly involved with scrubbing out graffiti, bringing things back to their shiny new state of polished concrete and chrome. My how things have changed.
Now, in 2015, urban art is really coming into its own. Artists like Banksy and Blu have brought this previously disregarded genre into the public psyche, and I for one, am loving it. This was no accident, however. In fact, it's all part of a bigger movement that synthesizes graffiti and outsider art with the more socially acceptable "public art".
Generation "Z", as it is fondly known, is the forever young generation. We refuse to grow up and grow out of our habits, good or bad. A hangover of this perhaps, is the fact that the childish graffiti we once admired or even personally scrawled on walls as teenagers is having the same sort of issue. Unlike our hangovers though, this is actually a pretty fantastic issue to have.
We go to work every day and do laundry and drink coffee like grownups supposedly do, but really we're giant teenagers that have created a veritable renaissance of all things child-like and comforting: comic books, cartoons, wearing stupid t-shirts.. We call ourselves Eleanor or Edward to hide the Ellie and the Ed that just want to wear onesies and watch Spongebob, dammit. In the same vein, graffiti has grown up too, it goes to auction houses and exhibitions, it calls itself Street Art with a capital S and A, but thankfully it has lost none of the mischief and expression that we once knew and loved. Above all, it still belongs to our generation.
In the last fifteen years, Houston has seen a 49% increase in college graduates ages 24-34, with the rate of young educated people moving to the city one of the highest in the entire US. At the end of last year, it was voted one of the top 15 hottest places to live for young people by Business Insider Magazine. One of the primary reasons for this? In my humble opinion, it's the urban art movement and all its connotations of hip, young, easy coolness (is there a word less cool than "cool", sorry) that is attracting a younger crowd at long last.
As an art lover that moved here from New Orleans just a few months ago, I was ready to hate this place for its drabness. So i'll be honest, driving through town and seeing a barrage of urban art that ranges from the gorgeous work of Aerosol Warfare such as the Houston is.... mural featured on my homepage, to the graffitied tattoo studios of Midtown and Montrose, was a tremendous relief. And it's not just the usual inner-loop areas either, Adickes' We Love Houston sign (pictured) is out on the Katy Freeway, for example, and thanks to city planners Johnson's Development Corp. we are starting to see public art infiltrating the suburbs, too.
From April of this year, Johnson's are beginning their integration of art and urban development with the construction of large-scale metal sculptures by Massachusetts-based artist Dale Rogers. Four such works will go up in Fort Bend County, Montgomery County and League City communities. For a city that doesn't give its suburbs a lot of love aesthetically or culturally, this is a huge step in the right direction.
All in all, we need to keep this cycle going. Allow the young some creative freedom and more will come. Above all, don't be afraid to let our childish side show as a city, because acting young will keep us young, right?
Stay tuned for a list of the best ten public artworks in Houston to see this month, coming soon!
British-born arts blogger living in Houston, Tx. A mixture of Street Art, Fine Art, Installation, and anything weird and wonderful. Follow me if that sounds like your cup of tea.