New platforms away from keyboard

Events away from keyboard also take place: Mural festivals, art fairs and indoor exhibitions can make the street art community seem surprisingly small when “everybody” shows up. The internet greatly aids in the popularity and success of these events, as well as the impression that there are friendly faces in every room. I have acquaintances that I see more when we are at these special art world events than when either of us is visiting the other’s city. These meet-ups also help to develop relationships that begin online or spark relationships that can build online after the events are over.

The big art fairs can provide ample opportunity to chat with people in the street art community from around the world, if you’re invited and can afford the price of admission. Many of the same galleries show at fairs in Miami, New York, Basel and London, and some members of the street art jet-set travel to all of those fairs. Despite the ridiculousness of the parties and openings and stunts pulled by companies trying to advertise the latest in private jet technology, there are some great things that happen on a smaller scale. I have found that art fairs, particularly the Miami fairs, are a great place to meet the people whom you have been following online. The same general crowd floats from fair to fair and party to party, and artists from Tel Aviv meet artists from LA and end up crashing on the hotel room floors of bloggers from New York.

That said, just getting into an art fair can require buying an expensive ticket. Add the cost of travel and hotels, and it is prohibitively expensive for many people.

By mid-2011, it seemed like mural festivals and conferences were popping up in every urban area, large or small, around the world. And some combination of the same small group of artists seemed to be invited to each one. While these events take place in person, the internet has facilitated many of them. FAME Festival (now shut down, although the organizer has said that he is working on other projects related to street art) in the small town of Grottaglie, Italy and Nuart in the Norwegian city of Stavanger were two festivals that started before the trend. Each are held in places that would not otherwise be known for street art, except for the work that has occurred as a result of the festivals. Thanks to the internet, word about murals in Stavanger and Grottaglie reaches a much wider audience than the local inhabitants, and there is street art tourism as a result. For a few years, street art fans have flown to Italy to visit FAME Festival because they read about it or saw photographs online. As odd as it may sound, visitors to FAME might have eaten dinner one night with the same group of people whom they had seen at an opening the week before at Lazarides Gallery in London.

Many of these festivals are grassroots affairs, and now street art fans in cities like Atlanta (USA), Rochester (USA), Richmond (USA), Vienna (Austria), and Katowice (Poland) have started their own festivals. The festival organizers rely on the internet to develop their line-ups and post countless photographs of the resulting murals onto their websites, spreading the word about festivals in even the most remote towns.

There seems to be a pool of about a dozen (admittedly talented) street artists/muralists (such as Roa, Jaz, Aryz, Nychos, Never2501, and Pixelpancho) who consistently get invited to participate in international festivals or one-off murals for which they have to travel internationally. Maybe this is because line-ups for mural festivals are often developed through online research. Rather than build up a reputation in one city, these touring muralists paint one or two murals in lots of cities and establish their reputations online. When they do end up in cities like New York or London with lots of photographers, they can turn mural painting into an event to be extensively documented because everyone has been looking forward to the opportunity to shoot these artists.

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