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The 8 Best Spots to Find Street Art in NYC

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|by Mark Robinson |


The city’s art collection extends beyond its famous museums

With all the great art museums that reside in New York City, we sometimes forget that great art doesn’t necessarily have to be hung on the wall in a gallery for it to enjoyed, respected and experienced. Street art has always been a big part of the NYC art scene, but what visitors to the Big Apple often do not know is that the city is overflowing with amazing street art that should be part of your itinerary. What is more, people do not necessarily know where to go to immerse themselves in the colorful and expressive world of street art. Read on for our list of the eight best spots to find stunning street art in the city. 

The DUMBO walls in Brooklyn feature colorful murals (Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

The DUMBO walls in Brooklyn feature colorful murals (Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

Freeman Alley
In the Bowery section of New York City’s Lower East Side, you will find Freeman Alley, the home of a brick wall that is site of some important NYC street art. In an alley leading to Freeman’s restaurant, you can find the wall (not exactly in plain sight) that contains works by well-known street artists such as Banksy and ASVP. Freeman Alley feels almost like a sequestered art gallery of street art, meant to be happened upon.

Centre-fuge Public Art Project
With all of the construction to be found in New York City – not to mention the ugly scaffolding and temporary walls – The Centre-fuge Public Art Project utilizes these eyesores of necessity and transforms them into canvases for artists. In fact, they go a step beyond that, revitalizing communities by “transforming ordinary and transitional structures into canvases for the display of public art.”

The DUMBO Walls 
DUMBO stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” and it is home to some of Brooklyn’s most exciting street art. The DUMBO Walls at 20 Jay Street, Brooklyn are definitely worth a visit. In an attempt to beautify the neighborhood, the DUMBO Improvement District, Two Trees Management Co., the New York City Department of Transportation Urban Art Program and the Jonathan LeVine Gallery joined forces and invited renowned artists to paint eight different murals. Internationally acclaimed artists such as Yuko Shimizo, Craig Anthony Miller, DALeast, Eltono, Faith47, MOMO, Shepard Fairey and Stefan Sagmeister are responsible for work on the DUMBO Walls.

The Graffiti Hall of Fame
For an explosion of color and a host of uniquely original street art, check out The Graffiti Hall of Fame. Located on East 106th street near Park Avenue, the Hall of Fame is in the playground section of the Jackie Robinson Education Complex. There you will find a wide variety of artistic expressions and social commentary that draw upon the exhibit’s yearly theme. The Graffiti Hall of Fame typically requires setting up a private tour in advance, although there are occasional events held at the site that allow tourists to explore.

Banksy’s “Hammer Boy” Mural
Who hasn’t heard of the mischievous street artist Banksy, the anonymous voice in street art from England whose works often pop up unexpectedly? One of this icon’s works can be found at Broadway and 79th Street, and is known as Banksy’s “Hammer Boy.” The piece was completed on October 24, 2013, but the silhouette of a child swinging a large hammer has never been explained, nor has any specific interpretation of the work been attached to the piece. Why not check it out and see if you can solve its mystery?

Houston Bowery Art Wall
At the corner of Houston and Bowery Streets in Manhattan, art fans will find the Houston Bowery Art Wall. This wall is a home for an ever-changing series of murals since the spot was first established as a public canvas in the 1980s. Displays last anywhere from four to six months and have featured the work of such artists as Kenny Scharf, FAILE, Retna, Aiko, Crash, Maya Hayuk and Ron English. 

100 Gates Project
Not exactly in any one location, but worth mapping out and visiting nevertheless, is the 100 Gates Project. This sanctioned street art project connects NYC merchants with artists who create murals on the roll-down security gates that cover their establishments. The 100 Gates Project establishes an open-air gallery of street art to be enjoyed after the sun goes down.

Keith Haring “Crack is Wack” Mural
No list of New York’s street art is complete without the inclusion of a piece by Keith Haring. Among them, “The Crack is Wack” mural at East 128th Street and Harlem River Drive is one of his best known works. Haring was a pop street artist in the 1980s who died at the age of 31, but left behind a legacy of spontaneous street art. His work also made commentary of social relevance, particularly about AIDS and homosexuality. The 1986 “Crack Is Wack” mural, painted on the side of a handball court, is a statement about the crack epidemic in NYC of the ‘80s. 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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