Jumping the Fence

My one-woman quest to document street art

I had only 2 goals in mind for my road trip to New Orleans, visit ExhibitBe and eat my bodyweight in beignets.After successfully gorging myself on beignets, it was time to complete the next item on my list. I pulled up to the dilapidated yet colorful former housing project nestled neatly behind the Family Dollar, and I was speechless (a true rarity).

A random Google search and a chance encounter with one of the artist behind this artistic feat led me to this point. I told my copilot to be a lookout and call me if I wasn’t back in 30 minutes.

I ignored the “No Trespassing” signs poking out from the fence between the overgrown grass and scraggly trees trying to find a way in.

To my great delight, I wasn’t the only person exploring on that day. A languorous choir of male voices floated over the fence. I yelled, “Hey how’d you get in?”

“Jump the fence!” he replied. Seemed simple enough.

Now, just for the record, I have to confess that I am not particularly stealthy nor am I athletic, but what I lack in skill, I make up for in determination. I spotted what was once a stylish living room set (circa 1994 ) and decided this would help me climb the fence. I used an old paint bucket and the dusty recliner as a step stool. As I strategically straddled the pointed tops of the fence narrowly avoiding an injury in a very interesting spot, I made it to the other side, my Birkenstocks landing with a resounding thud on the dirt.

 

Nothing short of a dream greeted me: then entire housing project was covered in colorful depictions of titans of black history. Their call to actions splayed over the walls in white lettering with corresponding colors highlighting each letter practically leaped at me. I stood at the nexus of my great loves – art, history, and blackness.

I made my way up a staircase and found my fellow explorers. Needless to say, they were shocked that to see me but 5 of us became a short-lived gang of black adventurers reliving our history and snapping photos. The seconds and minutes flew by.

 

I’ve loved art as long as I could remember but I quickly realized the most compelling pieces often decorate brick walls and not canvas. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin, TX in 2013 that this curiosity grew into my present-day obsession with documenting all street art. Austin is a strange place but part of its charm is the pride in preserving the quirky street art. I was broke with a list of the best graffiti in town so I hit the pavement with my friends. We drove all around snapping pictures of art and learning the layout of the city. The best part is it’s free ninety- nine.


Austin, TX 2015

Think about it the graffiti isn’t always seen in a positive light. There are some cities and residents that despise street art, but It’s the best way to explore the city as a local, find some cool eats and once again get to know the true side of a city.  It’s no coincidence that areas of unrest have sections covered in the art and messages of the residents. The depiction is the ultimate primary source of everyday life in any particular area. They are a breathing outline of the concerns, strife, and passions of the city’s people.

The art is constantly changing, helping to keep it fresh and relevant to the concerns of the artists.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then street art must be worth one million.  That is why I make it a must to find street art in every destination visit. It’s hella cliche but nothing beats seeing something with your own 2 (in my case 4) eyes.  I can’t shoot the shit with every artist but I can marvel at their work and gain more insight into their city and not the point of view a guidebook is trying to sell me.

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