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Maintaining a thriving art scene is becoming more and more of a priority among major U.S. cities — and numerous neighborhoods across the country are bolstering this mission by commissioning artists to create murals. Whether they’re scattered throughout town or centralized in an arts district, murals bring people together to both admire the art and discuss the events or people that inspired it. For example, the murals throughout the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago that display the controversy of gentrification have spurred important discussions on race, poverty, crime, and so much more. These six major American cities are home to some seriously stunning street art.
Black Cat Alley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Black Cat Alley isn’t just an alley with painted walls — it’s considered an outdoor art gallery. Artists and locals collaborated in 2015 to create their vision for an outdoor public art space, which now has 21 murals from 24 local and international artists. There’s a mural festival every September, when new artists can apply to have their artwork on the alley walls.
Coachella Walls in Greater Palm Springs, California
Coachella is well known for its annual music festival, but it's quickly developing another claim to fame. In 2014, an arts initiative called Coachella Walls brought five muralists to the area to honor the local community through art. There are a large number of immigrant farmers in Coachella, and the murals represent that diversity — whether it’s an image of a grape boycott, an anonymous farmer, breakdancers, or Latina women. More murals were added in 2016 and 2017.
Deep Ellum in Dallas, Texas
The neighborhood of Deep Ellum in Dallas has long appreciated the performing arts, and has hosted jazz and blues greats including Blind Lemon Jefferson and Bessie Smith. But in 2012, thanks to real estate developer Scott Rohrman, Deep Ellum furthered its appreciation of the fine arts with the 42 Murals project. Rohrman hired 42 muralists, paying each $1,000 to create a large-scale installation on the side of one of his buildings. Once the murals hit social media, they became just as important to the identity of the neighborhood as the jazz and blues musicians of the past.
Kaka’ako in Honolulu, Hawaii
The Kaka’ako area in Honolulu, which was once a bustling neighborhood for people working in the salt industry, began to decline in the 1900s, with many historic buildings falling into disrepair. Artists gained prominence in the district in 2011, making the historic facades and alleyways their canvases. It was part of an initiative called POW! WOW! Hawaii, which is now an annual festival. Local artist Jasper Wong recruited artists from around the country to assist in the creative transformation.
Central Business District in St. Petersburg, Florida
In 2010, revitalization plans for the Central Business District of St. Petersburg, Florida — specifically the 600 block of Central — completely collapsed. Artists had already been a mainstay in the city, thanks to an art school and the first art gallery in Florida, and newly affordable rent allowed the area to become a hotbed for those seeking to fine-tune their creative pursuits. Suddenly, murals began popping up everywhere: in alleyways, behind stores, along walls, near the roofs of buildings. It’s estimated that up to 500 murals can be found throughout the city now, and more are added every year with the annual SHINE mural festival.
The Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn, New York
In 1991, Bushwick local Joseph Ficalora’s father was killed near a local subway station. Twenty years later, Ficalora lost his mother to a brain tumor. Instead of fleeing his neighborhood, which had a reputation for active crime, Ficalora decided to revive the area. He formed the Bushwick Collective in 2013, a nonprofit that collaborates with businesses to install street art. A space is determined and artists from around the world come to paint. Every couple of years since 2011, the artwork is refreshed or changed.