19 of the Best Cities in America for Street Art
Today’s post comes from Hannah Sproul, Resident Artist for Whiskey Tango Globetrot. When she’s not painting murals, you can typically find Hannah climbing or eating Vietnamese food. While Hannah resides at the base of the Sierra Nevada in Reno, she does not enjoy the cold or snow, and spends most of her down time drinking wine while figuring out her next trip to Disney World. You can see her current work, and/or her dogs, at hannahsproul.com or on Instagram at @hanpainteddesigns.
Having now spent most of my adult life as an artist, it’s amazing to think that in our lifetime, street art has evolved from the illegal graffiti tagging of subways a few decades ago, to art that now defines many cities. Here in America, it’s not unusual for major cities to have an arts district. Heck, cities like Miami and Denver have more than one arts district. So rad, right?
So as a muralist myself, I’m stoked to be sharing some of the best cities in America for street art below.
You know if a city has multiple arts districts, then they take their art seriously. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in Miami. Though many cities require you to seek out art, in Miami, the art follows you. Neighborhoods like Wynwood Arts District (host of the incredible mural competition, Wynwood Walls) and South Beach showcase the breadth of the beautiful art freely available. While visitors can create their own self-guided walking tour of Miami’s art districts, there are also tours hosted by local artists, such as the official tours of Wynwood Walls. Additionally, Wynwood Art Walk offers a number of public and private street art tours, one of which also includes a beginner graffiti lesson.
Miami also is home to one of the world’s most renowned art fairs, Miami Beach Art Basel. We’re talking 100,000 visitors per year for it. Now that’s an art fair.
If you aren’t already familiar with the mural scene of Cincinnati, then prepare yourself for an unexpected surprise of high quality street art. With 147 murals and counting, Cincinnati seems determined to have every neighborhood showered in high quality, local artwork. How many cities can you name in which the mayor made a Mural Proclamation, dedicated to having at least one mural painted in each of its neighborhoods?
One of the most jaw-dropping murals is located right on 23 West Court Street, the behemoth 20-story Toy Heritage Mural featuring some of the most iconic American toys (hello, giant Mr. Potato Head). Elsewhere is the equally impressive fruit and vegetable still life at the Kroger headquarters on Vine Street. Meanwhile, take a virtual tour of all the Cincinnati murals until you can visit there yourself.
New York City, New York
Street art has long been rooted in New York City. Art like Keith Haring’s 1986 masterpiece Crack is Whack and Banksy’s infamous murals sprinkled throughout the city have defined New York City as one of the world’s best street art cities. Nonetheless, some of these murals take work to find, such as Banksy’s 31-day mural installation project for his 2013 NYC residency, Better Out Than In. While Banksy works aren’t always up for long, here’s a list if you’re up for a challenge of trying to find as many as possible.
Otherwise, I recommend heading into Brooklyn to Dumbo, Williamsburg, or Bushwick, where you can find art-lined streets. Finally, check out the 100 Gates Project, where you can see the rad collaboration between local business and 80 artists to paint 100 gates with murals.
Los Angeles, California
Two words: Arts District. Whether it’s snagging a photo with Colette Miller’s wings or viewing one of Love bErto’s iconic color-popping masterpieces, the Arts District is where you want to be to see the thousands of murals in Los Angeles come alive.
Los Angeles street art runs the gamut, from sky-high historic pieces like the Crenshaw Mural between 50th & 52nd streets in Hyde Park, or modern, eye-candy murals like the fabulous Polka Dot Wall on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. A good starting place for discovering Los Angeles street art is Mural Map LA. Be it strolling the DTLA Arts District, Mid-City’s Melrose Avenue, or the West Side’s Venice streets and canals, art is around every corner.
In Austin you’ll find art on nearly every part of town, including fences, railroads, bridges, restaurants, and of course on the walls of buildings. Hometown pride is clearly present in the murals here, with gorgeous representations of the town and its people across countless murals, like the Greetings From Austin Postcard Mural on 1st Street. Other notable murals include the larger than life toad mural (that’s right, a toad mural!) by Louis Masaii on 222 E. 6th Street and the HOPE Outdoor Gallery at Baylor and 11th Street. (HOPE is relocating this summer.)
As if Hawaii wasn’t perfect enough already, the murals here make it even more irresistible. On the island of Oahu, I have two words for you: POW! WOW! This annual event attracts an array of uber-talented artists to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, from across the globe, and has now grown into a global community of artists with events around the world. Meet artists, attend showcases, and see murals as they’re being painted.
As you’re booking your ticket to Hawaii to see Honolulu’s murals in real life, you can preview every single POW WOW mural to date here. Once in Honolulu, check out Maya Hayuk’s neon geometric murals (you really couldn’t miss them if you tried), or Shok-1’s Shake Mural, the massive X-ray masterpiece at 327 Lana Lane.
Sunrise shot of the mural by @wooden_wave and @reckonshop for #powwowhawaii 2018. // Photo by @peteulatan. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ // Supported by @hawaiihta @montanacans @montanacans_usa @hawaiianairlines @modernhonolulu @47brand @citymill @monsterenergy @olukai @bankofhawaii @1xrun @thinkspace_art. // #powwowhawaii #powwowworldwide
Atlanta’s street art really speaks for itself. Museum-quality artwork adorns the city walls, from cartoon-like illustrations, such as Tom & Jerry by Jerkface in Little Five Points, to more far out art like Felipe Pantone’s psychedelic murals. Atlanta also hosts the international Living Walls Festival, where thousands of art fans gather to cheer on artists as they continue to add murals to Atlanta’s walls. The organization has already added 100 murals to the streets of Atlanta, featuring some of the most talented muralists in America.
Reno is quickly becoming a capital in the US for street art. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, since Reno is the gateway for one of the world’s largest art gatherings, Burning Man. Beyond Burning Man, Reno’s art scene includes everything from mural competitions and expos, like the Circus Circus Competition and Reno Mural Expo in October, to live painting sessions by artists that take place on the daily. When you aren’t taking a self-guided mural tour through Midtown, be sure to stroll through downtown Reno to see the newest work of international muralist Erik Burke’s piece “Camouflage,” next to the Reno Playa Art Park.
Two things stand out to me about Baltimore’s street art scene. First are the beautiful murals through the Baltimore Mural Program, which started several decades ago, and has added 250 murals (and counting), reshaping the visual landscape of Baltimore from the ground up. Second is Graffiti Alley. Grab an Edgar Allen Poe beer (yes, that’s a real thing here), and then take a walk down Baltimore’s best kept secret, Graffiti Alley in Station North. Graffiti Alley is a jaw-dropping, immersive Baltimore street art experience that holds the full history of Baltimore street art on its walls. You can even bring your own paint and markers to leave a message on the walls if you’d like (don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble).
Richmond may be the last place you’d expect on a list of the best street art in America, but it has truly earned its place. This is made most evident by the unbelievable murals in the city’s Richmond Mural Program. The program has the goal of creating 100 murals in this small city within the first five years, and they are well on their way. Among the can’t-miss murals to check out is D*Face’s mural at 108 N 7th Street, and the rainbow Snoopy and Woodstock mural at 646 N 7th Street. If you’re in Richmond during the fall, don’t miss the RVA Street Art Festival, when Richmond’s baseball stadium turns into a canvas for art.
When you think Orlando, you probably think the likes of Mickey, Minnie, and Harry Potter. And that’s mostly correct. However, having formerly lived there, I can tell you that few cities are as visually alive as Orlando. Murals, sculptures, and art installations of all kinds cover the city.
Some of Orlando’s most beautiful pieces of art, however, not only show the beauty of Orlando, but the love of the community. This is most apparent by Orlando muralist Andrew Spear, and assisted by several local artists, who created a memorial mural for the families and victims of the PULSE nightclub shooting. Painted on one of the busiest intersections in Orlando at Colonial and Mills, Spear and his team painted 49 rainbow doves in honor of each lost victim. Other notable murals include the "Greetings from Florida" mural, painted by Victor Ving, who has painted a number of "greetings" murals as part of his Greetings Tour.
Where to even BEGIN with this city? Portland has small murals, BIG murals, funky murals—literally every kind of mural. Looking for a life-sized rhinoceros mural? Head to 1300 SE Morrison Street and you’re set. Looking for some multi-storied flamingos? You can find them hiding on 525 NE 24th Avenue. Don’t worry, these animals love the camera. For a unique street art experience, take an "Experience Tour," hosted by the Portland Street Art Alliance. You can even try your hand at rattle cans and learn street art techniques.
Helen and Shirley wanted to say hi! (Photo by: @connieleeworks) • • #savethepiespot #pdxnow #pdxfood #portlandia #foodie #ilovepie #yum #pdxbaker #pdxfoodie #portlandoregon #eatlocal #ilovefood #crusty #foodporn #pdxfoodcarts #piespot #foodgram #instagood #foodpic #yummy #forkyeah #eaterpdx #foodlove #instapdx #pdxeater #pdxevents #portlandfoodie #portlandfood #pdxbrunch #smores
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma is poppin’ with new murals and art that is big, bold, and likely everything you wouldn’t expect. Check out this massive and mesmerizing braid mural on 5600 N. Western Avenue by Dylan Bradway, Yatika Starr Fields, and Kristopher Kanaly. Or, snag a pic of “Cultivation” by Jason Pawley in the transformed Bricktown underpass at S. E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and W. Reno Avenue (just please don’t get hit by a car). And don’t miss Plaza Walls, a rotating mural project in the heart of Oklahoma's mural district (yes, a mural district).
Philadelphia has frequently been labled as the “Mural Capital of the World.” After all, the city is home to the world's largest outdoor art gallery, featuring thousands of murals. The city even provides guided tours of these murals, which you can experience by foot, by trolley, by train, or by segway. If you want more of a self-guided tour of Philadelphia’s murals, I’d recommend downloading The Mural Mile Map, which features two mural routes. How cool is that?
Navajo Nation, Arizona
While Navajo Nation may not be on your art radar and have the scale of art as a city like Philly, it’s an important destination to feature here. Navajo Nation makes the list largely in part to the incredible work of the Painted Desert Project, started nearly a decade ago with the mission of “connecting public artists with communities through mural opportunities on the Navajo Nation.” The Painted Desert Project features countless murals scattered across the Navajo Nation landscape, showcasing the wild and natural beauty of this land and its inhabitants. These murals are simple, enticing, and gorgeously detailed, showing the faces and stories of an overlooked side of America.
Simply put, Denver is a damn creative powerhouse. The Mile High City has great street art programming, including the Denver Chalk Art Festival (every summer), hosting hundreds of artists to truly create street art on the actual streets of Denver, and the Colorado Crush Street Art Festival (September), which is Colorado’s largest art public event. To check out Denver’s murals when you’re in town, head to one of Denver’s three Arts Districts: Arts District on Santa Fe (at 7th and Santa Fe), Golden Triangle Creative District (at 12th and Bannock), or River North Arts District (at Broadway and Arapahoe).
A beautiful city with a street art 'problem!' Here is a great photo from the CRUSH event in RiNo last weekend in Denver! Artists from all over the world came to put their mark on Denver's walls and we can't get enough of the murals! (📸: @lukas_crosby) #crushwalls #coloradocrush #streetart #denverstreetart
Did you know that Detroit hosts one of the largest international mural festivals in the world? Hundreds of muralists, both local and afar, come to Detroit to bring the many walls of this industrial city to life for Murals in the Market. What’s particularly unique about this event is that you can directly support the artists by buying prints of their murals (if they aren’t sold out). For a truly Detroit street art experience, visit the Heidelberg Project, which has been described as the “Ghetto Guggenheim,” spanning two city blocks. If you're traveling with a small group, take a tour of it with a Heidelberg Project docent.
Reason to love The D No. 24: unexpected art. There is beauty and wonder around every corner of Detroit. Tyree Guyton, founder and artistic director of the @heidelbergproj, uses everyday objects to bring colorful, creative art to East Detroit. 📷: Bill Bowen #VisitDetroit #DepictTheD #DetroitLove #DetroitProud #PureDetroit #DetroitCity #DetroitMichigan #Art #Creativity #HeidelbergProject
Sacramento is no stranger to murals and mural fests. Wide Open Walls (WOW), Sac’s largest mural festival, provides opportunities for local and international artists to paint 40 walls around the city. Check out the murals during the fest at Improv Alley between 7th and 8th streets in downtown. Otherwise, check out this Sacramento mural map, which documents hundreds of murals around the city.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is home to more than just bright lights, gambling and booze. And nowhere is this more evident than with the annual Life is Beautiful Festival, showcasing a colorful, vivid array of Las Vegas artwork by international artists across the walls of the Las Vegas Arts District. Check out the massive zen-doodle inspired piece by Zio Zeggler, which could be one of the largest doodled murals in America, located in the Fremont East District. Then continue walking the streets of Fremont East, especially Fremont Street, which is lined with murals and other pieces of art.