- by John Domine
Mapping the World's Street Art
Over 10,000 artworks. In 170 cities. And 54 countries.
Street Art Cities is an ambitious new project seeking to map urban art worldwide. Having just reached the 10,000 mural mark this week, it sets a precedent as the most extensive free street art app in the world, making use of urban art enthusiasts across the globe who are willing to share the amazing work to be found on their city's streets.
By providing locations, as well as any insider information about the works, Street Art Cities is primed to be the premium street art app for the intrepid urban art seeker. For me, as an avid traveller and huge fan of art on the streets, this is a huge boon to planning future trips to explore incredible art around the world. For artists, it makes their work available to a much broader audience than ever before.
I first found out about this project when I was invited to be a "hunter", several months ago. Together with SOLD contributor Sarah Sansom and street art fan Naomi Cervantes, we have put over 650 works on the NYC map of Street Art Cities, making it a phenomenal resource in and of itself for locals and tourists alike who are keen to track down art made by their favorite artists from around the globe, located on the streets of New York City and across the Hudson in Jersey City. To check out the NYC portal, click here.
NYC Street Art Map
I spoke with Street Art Cities co-founder Tim Marschang in Antwerp, Begium, to find out more about the overall scope of the project and what we can look forward to down the line.
How did the idea to create Street Art Cities come about?
It all started with Sanne Gijsbers documenting the booming street art scene in her hometown of Heerlen (in southeastern Netherlands). A few years later, Bart Temme, a friend, came up with the idea to convert this into a map and together with Thomas Schoffelen they made the first Street Art Heerlen website. Just like Sanne, I was also documenting the street art scene in my hometown of Antwerp and a lot of people were asking me for locations. When I found Sanne's website, I knew we had to work together, and so we did. Months later, I launched the Antwerp site and not much after that the idea of a worldwide network of hunters grew on us. Shy of a year later we have over 10,000 murals on our map.
Describe the scope of the project.
We've set our goal to become the most complete collection of street art on our beautiful planet. Mind you, we're far from the first team that uses a map to showcase artworks in cities. However, we do believe we're the first that actively invites hunters to use our network and tools for free. This community of hunters works collectively on our ambitious target. And might we add, the speed at which everybody is uploading, participating and helping out is astonishing. You have to remember, not much more than a year ago, the map was only built for one city. The passion and enthusiasm from hunters who slowly joined the ranks made us decide to open up the map network for the entire world.
That was our first year. Now we're looking at ways to invest in partnerships with artists, municipalities, galleries, festivals and magazines. So, basiscally people and organisations that share the same passion.
What is the long-term goal of the project/app?
We're highly devoted to creating a sustainable infrastructure, specfically made for all relevant stakeholders in the street art scene. An infrastructure that shows where to find art, to connect with artists, to find all information on every festival in the world and to basically be a guide for street art enthusiasts when visiting a new city. Hence our payoff; 'explore cities through street art'. So, we're merely scratching the surface now. We still have a lot more ground to cover!
How did you select "hunters" to participate in this project?
We just screened social media, IG mainly, to see who had the right profile. We believe in a give-first mentality, and so far it has worked out beautifully. The response we get from many hunters is extremely positive! A lot of street art lovers were already documenting their city; we just offer tools to do it in a really nice way, while also connecting with like-minded people across the globe.
I have had artists from other countries ask how they can get their murals featured on the app. Who should they contact?
Okay, so let us first explain the whole web & app thing. If a new hunter is on board, he or she gets full access to a map interface on the "interwebz". The community helps each other out in getting your first few murals live, and from that moment on most people seriously take off. Others need more time because of demanding jobs or busy lives. Those that have documented about 80-90% of available murals in their towns are enlisted in the app. It wouldn't make sense to add a city that still needs a lot of work to the app. Tourists mostly use the app, so we want to make the app a real quality product. Oh and by the way, many hunters also want their city and their hard work to be featured in the app, so in a way, it encourages hunters as well.
If artists want their work featured, just send an email or shoot an IG message to the hunter connected to that city. Their contact info should be visible in the navigation bar on the right. If all else fails, they can contact firstname.lastname@example.org
How do potential "hunters" from cities that do not yet have a presence become involved?
That's easy, hit us up with an e-mail, sweet talk your way in and tell us how great we are. Just kidding.
Just e-mail us, tell us which city you live in and we will get you a login. The rest is up to you. We only ask that you upload good pics and provide some background info about the art, if you know it. And keep it all up to date. In addition, potential hunters must be able to work in teams because we believe in an open community of team players.
Are there any events planned to get the word out about the app?
Yes. Well, we're working on that. As we speak, there's a forum thread going on about meet-ups in Europe. And I guess it should be as easy as just planning a date, sharing a location and promoting it on our forum. Sanne also made a really cool design for a postcard that promotes the app for everyone to download or edit and print. We try to share press releases on the forum, but to be honest, on the marketing side we could use some more power. But don't underestimate the power of word of mouth.
Most important for now, we are a small team and working our asses off before and after work without any funding. As we speak, some cities/festivals have shown interest in our app. Because we have an app ready to be deployed in practically any city, we can offer an affordable geo-location app for street art or other applications and this can generate the necessary funds to keep on working to feed this fast-growing community.
We're not in it for the money, but bills need to get paid. And we like to honor our community with fun contests and prizes.
We'd love to hear your feedback, since that's the best way we can make things better. All comments, good or bad, are welcome. You can check us out at www.streetartcities.com, download the free street art cities app and if needed, generate a comment through the app (every mural has an option to suggest an update or to upload a picture). But you can also mail us at email@example.com.
Current US Map of Street Art Cities
As you can see from the map above, there are still some street art-heavy cities from the US that aren't participating yet. Ones that come to mind are Lexington, KY, St. Louis, MO, and Indianapolis, IN. What are you waiting for?
So, if you are interested in seeing some amazing walls anywhere in the world, check out the site and download the app to your device (Apple or Android). And if you are interested in contributing to Street Art Cities to become a hunter for your city, contact them to get your place on the map! Together, we can make the world a more beautiful place, one mural at a time.