public art at interamerican school

The City As Art: Mosaics, Murals, Graphics, and Graffiti


Be they commissioned by the city, permitted by an owner or illicitly undertaken, wall art can be one the the brightest spots in a city (and this coming from an architecture blog)!  Lets face it, the modern world offers a lot of start blank walls to the pedestrian eye and when the buildings themselves can’t provide enough interest or warmth, bringing art outside can make an amazing difference to the urban landscape.


At its best, public art is not only FOR the public but incorporates the efforts OF community members (even children) to invest a sense of ownership as well as beauty into the project.  The sketch above is of the Inter-American Magnet school mosaics in our own Lakeview, one of a number school based public art projects around Chicago orchestrated by Green Star.  Check out all their area projects to date here.

The Green Star Movement is a Chicago area non-profit that has dedicated itself to supplementing (or entirely filling the role of) public school art programs while strengthens communities and makes them more human spaces to experience.  This video features the project at Uplift High School in Uptown two years ago.

The Green Star projects intentionally harness the energy of students hoping not only to give them an opportunity to be involve in an art project but to help shift the community perceptions of local youth – turning them into fellow community members in the process.  The images below are pulled from the video:

uplift mural


WATCH this beautiful video.    Chicago isn’t the only place that is trying to brighten its dark places with public art.  This features a program in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Color + City, which is a matching  owners of blank walls with local artists (or community members) who need a canvas.  As the programs founders put it, “we want people to participate and we want them to contribute to a more colorful city.”  

The interviews with natives of Sao Paulo and their descriptions of how graffiti influences their view of the city are poetic, even in transition.    What Gilberto Dimenstein of Catraca Livra describes as “Conspiracy of color that makes Sao Paolo an open sky art gallery,” and a way of using walls for “unifying instead of separating.”  Check out these glorious images borrowed from the video!

sao paolo


We’d never advocate reckless tagging but sometimes more informal street art moments can still be an amazing boon to the public spirit.  The following images are pulled from The Mind Unleashed’s recent post on Street Art That interacts with its Surroundings.   Some of these seem like they might be officially sanctioned, and some definitely illicit but they must all brighten the days of people who pass them!  Do check them all out directly!

face of toronto

Image credits: fauxreel

calvin and hobbes

Image credits: Oak Oak


Image credits: P183

What do you think about public art projects (sanctioned or not)?  Share your thoughts below!