Discover Mural and Street Art While Traveling: Uncover History, Stories, and the Personality of the Location

Murals in Bergen, Norway (photos by Betsy Beier)

I love mural art. Whenever I travel, I make a point of wandering neighborhoods and cities seeking out the districts or areas where mural artists have made their mark. Melbourne, Australia; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bergen, Norway; I can’t tell you how many cities embrace and celebrate this incredible art form! Not only does it brighten up an urban landscape, but the subject matter can be so indicative of the personality of the location.

Murals in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood, Cincinnati, OH (photos by Betsy Beier)

One may find a quote that is being expressed. Is this a saying or belief strongly held by locals? One may see a portrait of a person. Is this person of historic importance or significance to the city? One can uncover a mural with a story. Does this tale shed light on the plights and/or triumphs of the location? One can also find murals that explore with color or are an abstract design. Do these colors represent the location’s spirit or enhance the area for a specific reason?

Murals in the Mission District, San Francisco, CA (photo by Betsy Beier)

Murals have risen in popularity in the last few decades. Even in small suburbs like my own town, mural art is being created. I have loved this art form ever since high school many moons ago. At that time, I was focused on graffiti art (a topic for another day) yet know these two art forms do share many similarities as they bring art to the everyday person, the local, and more importantly the person who may or may not step foot in a museum. My guess is city councils and urban developers have noticed the benefits murals bring to a neighborhood. A disenfranchised area reclaims their rights to share their story, a bleek area filled with cement craves color to share its vibrancy shadowed by years of neglect, a downtown area desperately seeks a new image. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg at the rationale behind this movement.

So next time you are out exploring, be sure to take time to look for murals. Snap some pictures, jot down some notes. What are you seeing? What are the themes? Ask yourself what the meaning could represent. Find a local to get their opinion. Be curious and uncover the history or details of the area. You will be amazed at what you learn.

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