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Street Art in the Age of Covid-19 by Marie Vencil

The global pandemic has affected nearly every human life on our planet. Although the impact has been generally negative, it has also inspired an artistic response. Both locally and internationally-renowned street artists have been reacting to life in the age of Coronavirus through new projects.

Graffiti and street art are often employed to start a conversation about current social or political issues. As Covid-19 is dramatically affecting people and politics on a world-wide scale, new murals and works of art are emerging in reaction, and perhaps creating a new chapter of an artistic movement.

Street art is at the forefront of being a visual source for social commentary. The pandemic has spurred social unrest and political turmoil, heightening the conversations around already pressing issues. Street art enables a voice in the public sphere. “In times where all the galleries and museums are closed, the streets have become the canvas for public imagination”. Via Bored Panda.

According to Dr. Sabina Andron, a scholar and teaching fellow at The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, street art enables people “to take ownership of public space and to shape it through direct action, rather than representative democracy. Graffiti remains almost a reliable constant; it’s something that we can count on to give us the pulse of the time.”

Many artists are additionally utilizing street art to be a beacon of hope for people. Even in dark times, we can surround ourselves with artistic light. Artists are able to provide inspiration and hope to so many that are stuck inside in fear of the unknown. Street art is a channel for people to raise awareness and educate the public on health protocol and guidelines, as well as encourage and champion health care workers around the world fighting on the front lines.

Jason Naylor- Wash-your-hands

New York-based artist Jason Naylor spread messages around the metropolis, stamping words of encouragement with stencil tags and his signature heart.

Many artists are additionally utilizing street art to be a beacon of hope for people. Even in dark times, we can surround ourselves with artistic light. Artists are able to provide inspiration and hope to so many that are stuck inside in fear of the unknown. Street art is a channel for people to raise awareness and educate the public on health protocol and guidelines, as well as encourage and champion health care workers around the world fighting on the front lines.

Art by Vhils
Art by Unify
Art by Tristan Eaton
Artist Unknown


[Top Left: Art by Vhils; Top Right: Art by Tristan Eaton; Bottom Left: Art by Unify; Bottom Right: Artist Unknown]

Another rising issue that street artists are confronting is that many people have not been staying in their homes, which has been counterintuitive to stopping the spread of the virus.

Corie Mattie, a Los Angeles-based artist, depicts a woman standing next to large, capital letters saying, “Cancel Plans. Not Humanity.” Mr Brainwash has also created a mural with his slogan in Los Angeles, saying “STAY HOME, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.” Through these words, artists urge audiences to follow stay-at-home guidelines in order to preserve public health.

Since people have grown increasingly distrustful of the government and media outlets, it is perhaps through art that they can understand the true impact of this pandemic and need for social distancing.

Banksy also revealed his latest work during lockdown – a series of rats causing mayhem in his bathroom. Rats are commonly associated with not only Banksy’s set of characters, but also the plague. In this homemade installation, the rats may be interpreted as a symbol to indicate humanity’s current upheaval. The scene almost serves as a bacchanal. Stenciled rats are taking over a vulnerable human territory, the bathroom, and shed the imagery of disease on its surfaces. Banksy’s depiction also satirizes his own personal isolation, “working from home” as a vandalizer.

Although most graffiti about Coronavirus dwells on the mourning and fear of the pandemic, new creative forms of expressing these unprecedented times are appearing on streets, social media, and even bathrooms. They interpret new languages that we can immediately read- the face mask, the toilet paper, the order, or the plague. Street art has taken on a new role, convincing people to contribute to society by staying home and practicing safety measures.

Rafael Schacter, anthropologist and curator focusing on public art at the University College of London, said: “Graffiti is a space where dissent can be articulated and discourse can be pronounced. And even though it’s in many ways more difficult to produce because you can’t be in the public space, the focus on it becomes ever sharper because everything else is so empty around it”. Via Smithsonian Mag.

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