There are many ways to beautify cities: greening spaces, covering roads, recreating pedestrian areas. This is expensive and requires large-scale work. And what about the buildings, facades and walls that make up cities?
The solution most certainly comes from urban art. Indeed, what solution can claim as many positive benefits as street art? Why is this art still considered as vandalism when the facades of our buildings need it so much?
Urban art certainly beautifies cities. Let’s analyse the benefits.
An urban planet
We live in a world that is urbanising at an unprecedented rate in history. With more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities, urban areas are growing.
By 2050, urban population densities will increase dramatically. They represent a real threat to municipalities in their daily management of resources and their treatment.
Cities are becoming ever more sprawling, suburbs are expanding and green spaces are shrinking. City centres are becoming more remote and difficult to access. They give way to uninteresting dormitory districts or new towns with no particular soul.
Public services are abandoning these areas, with a negative psychological impact on the inhabitants. Who is happy when his or her horizon is limited to walls made of cinder block, concrete or other bricks? Who can see a better day in a concrete forest? Depressing, really.
Urban art positively transforms places
Urban art, present in every major – or smaller – city in the world, is a great way to beautify soulless facades. Murals bring colour to these increasingly dehumanised neighbourhoods. In fact, a growing number of artists are taking over third places, neighbourhoods and certain neglected areas and bombarding their walls.
In this way, the ruins of buildings in Sao Paulo and New York are being illuminated in a new light.
Cities such as Los Angeles, Berlin and Sao Paulo transform their wastelands into open-air museums. Artists are painting entire neighbourhoods in London and Seoul. Street art is here, inviting itself wherever it can.
Artist El Seed transforms a neighbourhood in Cairo
Committed artists like El Seed are taking over the most underrated areas, such as the Manchiet Nasser district in Cairo. In this maze of alleys resides the Coptic community of Zaraeeb, which has been collecting the city’s rubbish for decades. This small community has the distinction of having developed the most efficient and cost-effective rubbish recycling system in the world!
Yet this place is perceived as dirty, marginalised and kept apart.
El Seed created a giant anamorphosis there that not only paid vibrant homage to the “garbage people”, but also drew attention to their unique waste management system. This action has a strong emotional resonance for us and inspires us.
Art is a way to not only beautify neighbourhoods, but also to positively draw light to them.
All of these actions do indeed work! Throughout the world, we are witnessing the revitalisation of wastelands where the largest murals are grouped together. Urban art brings communities together, and the inhabitants reappropriate the place. It is not uncommon for a new dynamic to take place within these neighbourhoods, creating value, culture and sharing of places.
A virtuous solution in several ways
Street art is a virtuous solution: an affordable cost, paid artists, collective well-being. What solution can claim as many positive benefits as street art?
An affordable cost
A façade is above all a surface to be painted. The cost of paint per m2 is not high, regardless of the number of colours. The basic flat areas can be painted with a roller, and the details of the frescoes can be done with a spray paint. There are as many brands of paint on the market as there are prices and specifications. Artists know the properties of each brand and know how to use and mix them as needed.
The costs of ancillary requirements, such as forklifts and other platforms, are managed on a time basis, and the artists often work non-stop on major murals. Municipalities and companies specialising in these supplies can work together and keep costs down by negotiating year-round usage.
Artists do not have many sources of income. They come either from the sale of their work or from commissioned work. Municipalities also play a leading role in this respect by allocating budgets to artists and their work. Compared to many other investments that are often invisible to the taxpayer, these are transparently associated with the murals that are visible on the street.
Furthermore, as these works are commissioned, public or private companies can participate in the financing of these murals. In the era of all-out communication, there is no doubt that companies have a lot to gain by financing artists: positive image, commitment to art, participation in the embellishment of cities, to name but a few benefits.
Finally, considering the costs of communication campaigns, the use of this method is undeniably interesting from a return on investment point of view.
Let’s take the example of the 13th arrondissement in Paris. A district representative of many others, with its housing blocks, its crossing roads, and a lot of concrete concentrated in a small space. Over the years, thanks to the local authorities, associations and artists, this district has been transformed. Enriched with monumental murals, the grey has become more colourful.
The neighbourhood has been visibly transformed, for its residents as well as for the street art lovers who have been flocking to discover the frescos.
This is just one example of the positive contribution street art can make to neighbourhoods and cities around the world. Urban art brings colour, reverie and encourages exchanges. It has an impact on the local economies of the neighbourhoods in which it is located. It is part of the daily life of millions of urbanites around the world, transforming cities little by little.
In conclusion, does urban art beautify cities?
Urban art is a major player in the graphic change of cities. Bringing colour, beauty, positivity and emotions, it not only contributes to the beautification of cities but also to the well-being of city dwellers.