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The mural-lined streets of Wynwood, Miami. Photo by Sonya Revell.

Where to See the Country’s Best Street Art

By Susan McDowell
Street art is like outdoor dining: Innovative, invigorating, alfresco... and here to stay. Muralists and graffiti artists are no longer thought of us vandals, but legitimate artists whose work commands huge sums at auction (Banksy
recently fetched
a cool $20 million at Sotheby’s — and donated it for charity) and is featured in esteemed museum retrospectives, like 2021’s
KAWS show
at the Brooklyn Museum.
But you don’t have to visit a museum or attend blue-chip auctions to view some of most creative street art in this country. All you have to do is know which neighborhoods to visit. And so here are a few of our favorite places to view this unique urban art form.

LOS ANGELES

A mural by Ricky Watts at L.A.’s The Container Yard. Photo by Ricky Watts.
City of Angels? More like City of Murals, thanks to the endless array of street art that covers the town. You’ll stumble upon colorful works all from Venice to West Hollywood, but the greatest concentration can be found in Downtown LA. 
Start at Grand Ave. between Olympic and 11th Street in South Park, where LA resident Shepard Fairey (who created the iconic “Hope” poster for the 2008 Obama campaign) recently painted
Defend Dignity
to inspire sensitivity toward Mexican immigrants. 
Around the corner from
Sentral DTLA at 732 S. Spring
and
Sentral DTLA at 755 S. Spring
, you’ll find DTLA’s Arts District. Among the many murals there,
Bloom
is a standout; the colorful burst of flowers typifies the ethereal-meets-realistic style of Filipina-American artist Allison “Hueman'' Torneros. 
End up at
The Container Yard
, a former mochi factory turned revolving outdoor art gallery where you might see works by psychedelic color-lover
Ricky Watts
; Milan-based, fragmented style muralist
King Raptuz
; Hong Kong illustrator
Cara To
; and the joy-inducing “
Poochie with Tulips
” by
Nils Westergard
.

AUSTIN 

 “Hi, How Are You” by Daniel Johnston, in Austin. Photo by John Gusky. hihowareyou.com. rejectedunknown.com. storyofanartist.net
“Keep Austin Weird” is more than Autin’s unofficial motto. It’s a guiding light for the many artists who call the city home — and who cover its walls with quirky street art. You’ll find murals all over town, including the East Austin neighborhood surrounding
Sentral East Austin 1630
and
Sentral East Austin 1614
.
One of the most iconic of Austin’s street art destinations is
Daniel Johnston’s
mural
Hi, How Are You
from 1992, on Guadalupe and 21st Street. After Kurt Cobain wore the image on a t-shirt at the MTV Video Music Awards, the friendly frog gained an eternal life on merch and even tattoos. Johnston, who died in 2019, will be the subject of an exhibition by
The Contemporary Austin
beginning September 2021. 
Just as sweet is
I Love You So Much
, which Amy Cook, the co-owner of
Jo’s Coffee
, spray-painted on the side of the South Congress building after a fight with her partner and co-owner, Liz Lambert. 
The vintage postcard–style Greetings from Austin, at 1720 S. 1st Street, was created by neon artist
Todd Sanders
and his friend Rory Skagen, and recently restored thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. 
Finally, if you can’t catch local legend Willie Nelson in person here (yeah, he still
plays live shows
in Austin from time to time), the best substitute is a selfie with Jaquie Oakley’s famous
Willie For President
at 1423 S. Congress.

CHICAGO 

“Vivian Maier” by Eduardo Kobra, in Chicago. Photo by Brandi Alexandra.
Chicago is no stranger to enchanting public art — case in point, Anish Kapoor’s mirror-like Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) and Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain, both in
Millennium Park
. But in nearly every neighborhood of the city, you’ll find colorful murals that reflect Chicago’s long and diverse artistic heritage. 
Take Brazilian graffiti artist
Eduardo Kobra
’s portrait of street photographer
Vivian Maier
, at 1651 W North Ave. in Wicker Park. Born in 1926, Maier worked as a nanny while taking
thousands of images
, many only discovered after her death. 
Another much-admired woman,
Michelle Obama
, towers over the outdoor patio at Korean-American restaurant
Perilla
at 401 W. Milwaukee Ave. The former FLOTUS is dressed in traditional Korean garb, typical of the work of artist
Royyal Dog
The
Wabash Arts Corridor
in South Loop — just up the block from
Sentral Michigan Avenue
— contains perhaps the city’s densest concentration of murals, including the remarkable, nine-story
From Bloom to Doom
by Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs and the playful
Moose Bubblegum Bubble
by artist/photographer Jacob Watts. 

SEATTLE

Seattle loves street art almost as much as it loves coffee and craft beer — which is to say, a lot! Where else can you find an entire commuter transit line lined with more than 50 murals by 60 artists from 20 countries? 
That would be
SODO Track
, a two-mile transit corridor that leads to Downtown Seattle and doubles as an outdoor urban art gallery. Works like
Terrestrial Melody
,
Personal Trainer
,
When it Rains it Purrs
,
White Ashes 3
, and
Shelter 2
go by in a blur for train passengers, or hop on a bike to get a closer look. 
In summer 2020, after
16 local artists
painted the block-long
Black Lives Matter
on Pine Street in Capitol HIll — each contributing an individual letter — the city of Seattle made sure that the work (located close to both
Sentral SLU
and
Sentral First Hill
) became a permanent piece of art. 
The city’s Department of Transportation even encouraged local artists to add pizzazz to those boring old
Traffic Signal Boxes
that sit on just about every corner into street art moments. Those transforming the metal boxes into urban canvases include photorealist street artist
Desmond Hansen
, graphic illustrator
Victor Melendez
, and graphic designer
Nathan Watkins
.
You can’t talk about Seattle street art without mentioning
henry
, the city’s most prolific muralist, with nearly 200
local works
to his name. The artist, whose real name is Ryan Henry Ward, is known as Seattle’s
Whimsical Mural Master
for his googly-eyed creatures. Look for a few examples in
Pioneer Square,
where multiple storefronts are covered in bright and beautiful street art — so many you’ll need a
map
to find them all. 

DENVER

“Larimer Boy and Girl” by Jeremy Burns, in Denver. Photo by Jeremy Burns.
The Mile High City is known for its stunning mountain views, but the enormous amount of street art in the city will compete for your visual attention. You’ll find the greatest concentration just a few blocks from
Sentral Union Station
, in the
River North Arts District
, (RiNo), where it seems just about every other facade is covered in murals, many of them created as part of an annual arts festival co-sponsored by the city. 
Many of the works directly address current issues. Among them: Shepard Fairey’s
Power and Equality
, a portrait of the political activist Angela Davis; Alexandrea Pangburn’s mural of a
burrowing owl
, which she painted to call attention to the threatened species in Colorado; and
Orange, Blue, and Red Stencil Eyes
by artist
Ahol Sniffs Glue
, which is meant to illustrate the grind of the working class. All three are located near the intersection of Larimer and 26th Street.
But the real RiNo showstopper is
Larimer Boy and Girl
, by artist
Jeremy Burns
. Depending on which way you approach the mural, a lenticular piece that’s painted on the facade of an old laundromat, you’ll see either a wide-eyed boy or a sad-eyed girl. And if you stand facing the building straight on, you might not see the mural at all.

MIAMI

Miami’s Wynwood Walls. Photo by Sonya Revell.
Staying at
Sentral Wynwood
puts you right in the heart of some of the best contemporary art in the country, much of painted on the walls of the neighborhood’s buildings. This formerly working-class neighborhood has been transformed over the past decade or so into Miami’s hippest area, spurred in large part by the abundance of amazing murals. They’re the brainchild of the late Tony Goldman, the entrepreneur and neighborhood-reviver who first envisioned the neighborhood as an open-air art gallery back in 2000. Now more, than 200 murals cover the area. The block party–like
Wynwood Art Walk
, held the second Saturday of every month, is a fun way to see it all. 
There are murals everywhere you look in Wynwood, but
Wynwood Walls
, an open-air museum that features rotating works by major global street artists is the place to start. Here, you’ll see
The Secret Garden
by artist
Kelsey Montague
, who helped kick off the craze for winged murals that you see all over Instagram. Here, she depicts a magical garden with a swing and a secret door.
Aiko
’s fun and flirty
untitled work
at Wynwood Walls — a kaleidoscope of butterflies, flower, male gymnasts, and a woman’s posterior — lives up to the Japanese artist’s intentions: “Miami is a place for parties,” she says. “I wanted to make something gorgeous, festive, exciting for everyone, with positive energy.”
Other standout pieces in Wynwood Walls include Ron English’s wildly colored
Hulk Boy
and 
RETNA
’s mural of massive red and white lettering, a unique typography that the L.A.-based artist created with a mix of Chicano gang graffiti, Gothic script, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Arabic, and Hebrew calligraphy. 
Outside of Wynwood Walls, one of the largest permanent murals in the neighborhood towers above all others. Artist
EL Mac
made
A Love Supreme (Wynwood Saints)
with thousands of spray cans over many months, and with no painting assistance. The image of children of different races grasping flowers and holding out their hands, was made with the “hope that together they might transmit to the viewer some of the love and soul that went into them."
"A Love Supreme (Wynwood Saints)" in Wynwood, Miami. Photo by Sonya Revell.

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