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Citizenship

How graffiti artists use their voice, and you can too!

Artist Lmnopi | Photo by Chelsea White

Every morning I swipe my Metrocard and hustle with other New Yorkers for a coveted seat on the N train. Unfortunately, most mornings I don’t get one, and so I stand (half asleep) staring out the windows as the buildings pass by (where I get on, the subway is above ground). Unlike most New Yorkers though, I’m actually ok with this because I know that outside those windows is a free graffiti art show.

Artist Unknown | Photo by Chelsea White

My love of graffiti can be controversial. As an art form, it has always teetered between vandalism and artistic freedom, between what is art and what is an eyesore. It has evolved from simple tags and writing one’s name on subway trains and walls, to something you might find in a gallery or even a museum. What has always held true though, is that graffiti and street art have always been about expression. It’s about getting noticed, getting one’s message out (whether that’s your name or a political statement), and about doing it in a public forum…the streets!

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of street artists are using their art to call out social injustices, and quite honestly, these are my favorite pieces! I’ve heard the term “artivism” being thrown out, combining artand activism,” and I couldn’t have coined a better term myself.

Artists Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Lmnopi respectively | Photos by Chelsea White

How else are you supposed to describe the work coming from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and her “Stop Telling Women to Smile” campaign? Or from Lmnopi, who might just be the reigning Queen of “artivism” with all her various pieces.

Artists B.D White and Hunt Rodriguez respectively | Photos by Chelsea White

What about the stencil work from B.D. White that adorns a lot of the lamppost bases in Brooklyn? Or the Mars alien piece from Hunt Rodriguez that holds a very clear message about how we are treating our planet? Yeah, I think “artivism” is the perfect word to describe the kind of street art we have been seeing lately.

These artists are bringing a voice to various social issues, and they are doing it by capitalizing on their own talents. As much as I love street art and graffiti, I’m not sure if I have the skills to match them. But that’s ok, because I have my own skill set, and I’m sure you do too. With this post I’m not trying to urge everyone to start wheatpasting on walls or pick-up a spray paint can. I’m pretty sure the city of New York would hate that, and my boss wouldn’t be so happy either (he told me to include this disclaimer-you’re welcome Brandon). What I am urging you to do, though, is follow the path of graffiti artists and activists, and get your message out there to the public where it can be heard.

Find a topic you are passionate about whether it’s supporting Women and Girls, Climate Change, Food and Hunger, etc… and use your skill set to promote it. This could be as simple as:

- going to the Global Citizen website and taking action on any of our various issues

- take an UPSIDEDOWNFIE and post it to Instagram #SHOWYOURSELFIE to show your support for the end of violence against women

- organize a Flash Mob and get that craze started again

- or pop some popcorn and setup a screening of A Path Appears (the new series from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn)

The options are endless, you just need to be creative and capitalize on the skills you already have. Because if “No one speaks. No one is heard,” but if we do speak out, we will be heard and we will make a difference!

Artists B.D White and Jilly Ballistic | Photo by Chelsea White

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Chelsea White