From the Berlin wall to Chicago’s post-Civil Rights community mural movement, 20th century street art offers a form of artistic and cultural expression that transcends class and privilege. Showcasing a shared territorial connection with a historical event or merely capturing a deep rooted sense of place, public space has long been used as a visual canvas that confronts and interrogates socio-political issues and belief systems – both local and global, on a communal level. On a visual level, street art captures the essence of a city and its collective experiences; bringing colour and vibrancy to downtrodden alleyways, breathing a new life to crumbling buildings from way back when.
South Hollywood’s Downtown area is abuzz with colourful and conceptual works of art that lift its sleepy streets strewn with palm-trees into an outlet for creativity and cultural expression. This is our first experience of Downtown Florida. It’s hot and humid – the walkways are quiet, but the artistic roots of the city are hard to miss. Sprayed across street corners, we spy murals glinting against the morning sun before meeting Jill Weisberg, an effortlessly energetic and enthusiastic local artist and curator of Hollywood’s Downtown Mural Project. The aim of the project, we learn, goes beyond a showcase of local, national and international artists – it aims to revive and illuminate the Downtown area, improve its economy and stimulate further local arts and cultural activities. Jill works with both the commissioned artists and local business owners in the design and execution of each mural. The property owners (who pay for mural materials) are integral to conversations of style and form – it must exist on their walls after all, before final designs are submitted to the local committee for final approval. The result, is a co-operative and collaborative process that enhances and enriches the town’s cultural fabric, strengthening community ties and local pride. The project, launched in August 2012, has overseen countless works which typically last several years; some have survived the test of time, others have weathered against the elements with peeling paintwork that suggests time for renewal – a blank canvas.
Rivalling Miami’s Wynwood Walls, these vibrant murals are helping to put Hollywood on the map as a cultural cornerstone in the South Florida area, offering a cool and laid back undercurrent which doesn’t befall a kitsch or touristy American town. Each mural mirrors the style of the artist, differing in size, scale and intricacy; here’s a glimpse of our absolute favourites.