Freshwounds explores the resurrection of the mural capital of the world with Graff Tours LA
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Downtown Los Angeles, specifically off the corner of Fourth and Merrick. The sidewalks were filled with a jovial and stylish demographic. Either happily conversing amongst friends at a table outside of a restaurant or coffee shop, or engaging in creative endeavors such as filming and photography. A vivacious energy had materialized from the vibe I felt in this area, bustling with radiant activity and artistic vigor. Yet, the reason why I went there to begin with, was magnificently illustrated on the walls of each building. To help thoroughly educate and delineate each particular piece of art and its history to me and seventeen others was our street art tour guide, Carolyn Park. She works for this incredible company called Graff Tours, the first company devoted to graffiti and street art in North America, founded by Gabriel Schoenberg.
“I was living in Buenos Aires (Argentina) where I discovered my passion for Graffiti and Street Art,” the President stated. “And I also found out that they have a street art tour there, and I realized that there wasn’t one back in the U.S. So when I moved back to New York in 2009, that’s where it all started.” Alas, Graff Tours was created in New York, enlightening the masses about talented street artists and their backgrounds. Every tour covers each city’s rich history from the past until the present, and the creative techniques utilized in each specific piece. In 2011, the tour extended its didactic reach out to Philadelphia, and then eventually in Los Angeles in 2013.
“Los Angeles has a great history,” said Gabe. “the usage of Graffiti with gang-affiliated and Chicano roots has grown in an artistic level. And now with the legalization of murals, Los Angeles is a hub for renowned artists to express themselves without suffering criminal repercussions.” Indeed, Los Angeles is widely known as “The Mural Capital of the World”. Graffiti was introduced in Los Angeles in the 1940’s by local gangs, with the adoption of the “Old English” letter face, in order to claim territorial street boundaries. But since the 1970’s, during the Civil Rights movement and political cataclysm in Mexico and Chile, artists expressed their concerns by creating powerful murals and revolutionizing street art. At the beginning of the 21st century, a decade long ban on private property was implemented in city, stifling the movement temporarily until the ban was lifted in August of last year. “We’re living in the era of the legal wall,” he emphasized. “Graffiti and street art is now recognized as prominent art movement.” The recent legal ordinance has given birth to new works (despite a lengthy registration process and 45-day waiting period for approval), along with restoration of past works such as the Olympic Freeway Murals. Although Graff Tours benefit by covering different neighborhoods as new pieces are created, but also does the property value of these buildings increase and attracts people to visit and pay respect, turning the city itself into a stunning, flourishing masterpiece. And it appears that our city officials has fully embraced that concept as well.
Our trail featured a unification of Los Angeles-based artists (Risk, Else, Shepard Fairey, Mr. Cartoon, Dtoar and Kim West), international artists (Fin DAC, How & Nosm, and JR), and local crews (Earth Crew and Under The Influence), creating this melting pot of cultures and styles which exemplifies an embrace of diversity through a single, united form of art and expression. Styles range from abstract shapes, pattern formations and ideas to real depictions of LA modern culture, indigenous natives in the wild, along with ancient civilizations to create a visually artistic timeline. Los Angeles has clearly re-established itself as the street art capital, attracting an array of renowned and aspiring artists from all over the world today.
Over the past five years, Graff Tours has grown to guide hundreds weekly with the help of five artists and historians. Graff Tours has won the Certificate of Excellence by tripadvisor.com this year, and considered one of the “Top Private Art Guides” by The Wall Street Journal in 2013. Yet, not only do they host tours, they also conduct group workshops and private lessons which include murals, t-shirt, and stencil making, all run by working artists with the upmost level of integrity and art. Gabe states, “I also work with Ryan Seslow, who is the creator and instructor of the History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti, taught in LIU Post and CUNY College in New York. So Street Art is slowing but surely on its way to be considered as an art form worthy of the classroom.” It appears that Graff Tours is on course to transform our ordinary public streets into distinguished art museums. Not only do they educate the community, but also actively inspire and engage in the art form in an attempt to make a huge impact for the movement.
Please visit the Graff Tours website at Grafftours.com.
Also check out the full image gallery from our tour with them on our Pinterest Page.