A Very Public Guide to the World's Public Art

The Big Art Mob app wants users to upload images of global street art in all its forms.

Trying to define street art isn't easy, mostly because the definition depends on who you ask. People in law enforcement consider it a crime and city government call it a nuisance. The director of Los Angeles MOCA has deemed it worthy of its own exhibition.

Ask Alfie Dennen, the British creative technologist behind the startup Big Art Mob (currently in beta), and he'll tell you that at the very least, the definition needs expanding.

"Under the [UK’s] legal definition the only art that can ever be considered public are architecture or works that have been created through an institutional hierarchy," Dennen says. He defines public art a bit more broadly: "Any work in public view created by a person or group whose aim was to create what they believe to be art, irrespective of genre or style."

Launching publicly next week, the Big Art Mob app and accompanying website aim to expand awareness and appreciation of public art by inciting users to upload pictures of it in all forms—graffiti, tagging, public art, and institutional art. These images are then integrated into a user friendly map and a unique bank of well-categorized metadata.

Dennen, whose body of creative work combines technology and mass collaboration, says the Big Art Mob concept is different from most startups—its focuses on creating a "point-of-interest data base."

"Most startups say 'this is my commercial model and we will have ongoing revenues of x,' but we have a much more complex position on what it's eventual and current value is," Dennen said. "[Big Art Mob] combines elements of public utility and documentation around art in a way which isn’t directly commercially exploitable."

While the app and website are designed for international use, the rich tradition and appreciation of street art in London makes it a fitting birthplace. Some local councils in the UK, particularly those in the capital, are taking a progressive stance when it comes to street art clean-up, such as only removing a work deemed offensive. Dennen hopes that a wide user base of his app will serve as proof for why local governments should invest in, rather than shun, art in the public realm.

"We have a global treasure in public art," said Dennen. "Part of that is the ephemerality of street art and graffiti and we should capture that because we can, because now is the digitized future. We have a responsibility to do that."

Photo via (cc) Flickr user London Attractions Guide

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less