We are an interdisciplinary research team based at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Urban Art Mapping seeks to document and analyze street art responding to moments of friction and crisis. At this time, topics we explore include systemic racism, the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental challenges, and gentrification. Our goal is to arrive at a nuanced understanding of the relationship between street art and place, considering how art shapes and is shaped by unique neighborhoods.
What We Do
What We Do
WHAT WE DO
Urban art mapping is an interdisciplinary research team supported by the Research in Action initiative at the College of Arts and Sciences, University of St. Thomas and Arts Midwest. Our collective backgrounds in folklore and cultural studies, geography, and art history shape the core methodology of our project. Through our research we seek to track responses to moments of crisis at locations associated with crisis, assessing text and images in the streets from a qualitative and a quantitative perspective.
Street art is ephemeral and fleeting, and it can reveal immediate responses to world events in a manner that can be raw, direct, and revealing. These visual expressions can help make externally visible what people think, believe, or feel both individually and in groups. Artists, activists, and community members help shape the archive through their documentary work and ongoing engagement with the project.
A study of street art is relevant to many disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, including art history, cultural studies, geography, sociology, and urban planning. Our faculty directors engage students in an analysis of street art in our own classrooms, and we present our research to academic audiences and the broader community through conference presentations, lectures, and workshops. Educators around the world also use the databases in their teaching and research.
IMAGES FROM THE ARCHIVES
Hover over each photo to learn more about each piece's background.
“… the global mass of produced plastic is greater than the overall mass of all terrestrial and marine animals combined.”
-Elhacham, E., Ben-Uri, L., Grozovski, J. et al. Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass. Nature 588, 442–444 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3010-5
Angelo Castro painted ‘Fica em casa!’ in Rio de Janeiro in May 2020. In this piece, a young shirtless boy brandishes a belt, mimicking an authoritarian adult who commands that a child ‘Stay at home’ with the threat of punishment. This work mocks the lack of authority and leadership of the Bolsonaro government in Brazil and its failure to address the pandemic effectively. Documented by the artist on Instagram @angeloartvision.
This quickly drawn image of a doctor with text reading ‘RIP Li Wenliang’ appeared in Bangkok, Thailand, paying homage to the doctor who first called attention to the presence of a novel and deadly virus in Wuhan, China. This was painted in Sukhumvit Road near the train station, a popular location for street art in Bankok. Documented in March 2020 by Kuba Piotrkowicz | @kubapiotrkowiczon Instagram
The Velvet Bandit
The Velvet Bandit emerged as a street artist in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and is very active in Northern California This small paste up reading ‘My Virus, My Choice’ takes a dig at the politicized responses to Covid-19 and resistance to government mandates, especially in the USA, where restrictions that are put in place based on scientific evidence and in the service of the public good are often challenged on political grounds. Follow @thevelvetbandit on Instagram, and check out thevelvetbandit.com
Painted on plywood on the north side of the Lake Street Clinic, this piece is one of three in close proximity that seem to be in conversation. All three pieces have text that reference hearing or seeing protesters and the effect of their actions. The bottom written text may have been written first in black white the top text, “Rise Like Lions” was added later and exclamation points were added to the bottom text. This board also has a tag from Gho$t Man. It's unclear whether this writer is the creator of this piece.
Noted Twin Cities artist Seitu Jones created this stencil of George Floyd’s face and made it available online to anyone who wanted to use it. As a result, this stencil has been used in many locations across the city, across the country, and around the world. This specific instance was done by Seitu himself, who, in an interview with our team, explained that he bombed up and down University Avenue in the days after the uprising in St. Paul. As the attached paper sign suggests, this piece was painted on plywood covering a window on a commercial building that was open for business at the time it was documented.
This piece, composed of a stencil on the left and freehand writing on the right have become important to our team as it captures both and essential motif of the street art associated with the George Floyd Uprising and it makes a statement for why the art accompanying the movement is so important. Art on walls and boards and streets is a way to own and reiterate the narrative so that it doesn’t get forgotten or coopted. This piece was documented by one of our most important documenters, Sally Pemberton, who sent us images of hundreds of pieces of street art from the Twin Cities.
Featured Story Map:
Stories on Walls: #StopAsianHate in Street Art
Street art serves as a way to bring more awareness and attention to issues of anti-Asian hate and can act as an outlet to celebrate and recognize Asian heritage and culture at a time when it is vulnerable.
Scroll to learn more about this story map.