10 Things We Can Learn From Street Artists

Top 10 lessons from street art.

In celebrating Wooster Collective's 10th anniversary, we are sharing our top 10 lessons from street art. We hope to see everyone at the 10 Years of Wooster Collective exhibition presented by Jonathan LeVine Gallery, opening on August 7th at 525 West 22nd Street.

1. It’s important to take risks.
Street artists risk their safety, freedom, and finances every time they go out and create something illegally. It’s important to take risks in our lives every once in a while—whether it’s something as grand as quitting your job to pursue a passion or tricky as trying something new on the menu. Taking risks pushes us out of our comfort zones to experience and feel something new in our lives.

2. Give without expecting a return.
Many street artists create work with the belief that freedom of speech and free art should be enjoyed by everyone. They create out of pure enjoyment and give their art to the world selflessly. When you put things out into the universe without the expectation of a return, it will come back to you in one form or another.

3. Challenge the norm.
Street artists are disruptive. Simply put. Whether this is weighed as positive or negative depends on who you’re talking to. What is considered “norm” is all relative. So it’s important to break away from the norm in your life and determine your own anchor of truth.

4. Be fearless.
It takes a lot of courage to go out into the night and risk your life in the name of art and freedom. Against authority, against the odds, and against the norm, street artists show us what it means to be fearless. Life is too short to contemplate the “what ifs.” Make a decision, commit to this decision, and be fearless with it.

5. Question everything.
Some street artists have a political message encouraging viewers to question society. Non-political street art challenges society through the sheer act of defying authority. Everyday we are told that street art is bad because it is illegal, and street artists are bad because they are vandals. But these statements only hold value within the legal framework. Is street art really bad if it is not harming anyone and aims to beautify the environment? If we told you that all street art is good, would you believe us? Question everything. Think for yourself.

6. Persistence pays off.
For many street artists, being prolific is key. Since street art is ephemeral, getting out there and putting work up consistently is important for making a lasting impact. Over the years, we’ve noticed that some of the most successful artists are the ones who never stopped working on their craft. So whatever your goals are in your life, keep going and strive to improve yourself through the process. Persistence pays off!

7. Collaboration enhances productivity.
One of the greatest joys of Wooster Collective is that it has allowed us to collaborate with so many wonderful artists. There is so much to be gained from collaboration—it can open your mind to new ideas, different opinions, and a fresh perspective. The process of collaboration creates room for dialogue that can affirm your existing vision, challenge it, and ultimately strengthen it. For any occasion in your life, find the opportunity to collaborate with others, even if it is just bouncing ideas back and forth with a friend.

8. Creativity is a universal language.
Street art is a global movement that knows no boundaries. Thanks to the internet, street artists from around the world can experience and understand each other regardless of language or cultural differences. Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, everyone has the potential to be creative—expressing yourself in a different way, troubleshooting from another angle, or imagining yourself from another standpoint. Practicing creativity in your everyday life can help you communicate and connect with others better.

9. Context is everything.
The most powerful works of street art are site-specific and take into consideration their surroundings. What is said, done, or created within a specific time and space may have a different meaning in a different context. To be successful in life, you need to take into account your environment, your audience, and the timing. Be aware and self-aware because context is everything.

10. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
The process of creating street art and defying authority to make a statement is liberating and empowering. When street artists set out to complete a piece illegally, there is no guarantee they will succeed. Even if they do, the finished product is impermanent. Thus, life is about the journey—the experience, the challenges, and obstacles that build character. Where we end up is just a byproduct of our choices along the way.

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WOOSTER: Why did you choose the subject matter you did?

SEAN WOOSLEY: Bus stop advertisements have always struck me as a dynamic and very public medium to work with. Most of my posters contain beautiful women, bold colors, and geometric patterns with a simple message. The subject matter changes with each poster, yet all are analogous and meant to provoke thought.

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WOOSTER: Why did you choose the specific placement?

NELE: I chose to work with the body and the city. I've started to roam around several major cities, studying their history and placing little ice sculptures in their meaningful historical places. Monuments are the synthesis of my restlessness: a historical celebration far away from ordinary men. I then subvert the official monument's characteristics by breaking the monumental scale with a little ice sculpture, honoring the anonymous and melting the body in the city.

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WOOSTER: Why did you choose the specific placement?

BUMBLEBEE: The "newspaper stand" is fast becoming a forgotten way to communicate with the public. With more online news subscriptions being made, newspaper companies are leaving these structures abandoned. I want to use this endangered species as a way to communicate with the public once more. This is achieved using the concept of "site specific" in the real world as well as the online world, and also by introducing a different concept: "time specific." This technique helps to create a story on the street as well as the webpage in which the images are added to. Each newspaper stand represents a single page in the story called: "The Story of How Things Came to Bee." Once the newspaper stand is placed back in the location from which it was originally borrowed, a picture is taken at the exact time in which the story takes place. Adding the images to the webpage, allows for a narrative to be created by using "notes"(these are viewed by scrolling over the image) which can not bee seen on the street. Lastly, a map showing the locations of the newspaper stand is on the site as well, allowing the online viewer to travel to each location and view these scenes in real life.

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The Wooster Collective talks to the New York-based street artist Martin Sobey about his work. This is the first installment of a new weekly...

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This is the first installment of a new weekly series in which our friends at the Wooster Collective will be bringing some of their favorite street art to GOOD, along with interviews with the artists behind the work. We hope you enjoy it.

About a year ago, we started to notice that the drab drain pipes and scaffolding poles were coming to life with vibrant, energizing colorful wraps. These are the work of Martin Sobey, an artist whose studio in NoHo is near many of the places he has brought to life. We believe that these small acts of creativity make New York a special city. Passersby know the city is alive and that the human element prevails-even in a construction zone. We caught up with Sobey to ask him about his most recent work.

WOOSTER: Why do you choose where you put your pieces?

MARTIN SOBEY: My placement depends on a variety of things- initially the piece of architecture or environment that strikes me- and is applicable to my type of work- secondarily the location-can I make this thing happen?

W: How does your work contribute to the community?

MS: My work adds to my community on many levels-it introduces work not of a typical nature, with a greater impact and a stronger aesthetic than the surrounding environment. It also comes down when I deem it done-understanding its impermanence is crucial to the piece. Also: pride-my community has a large number of artists and I strive to maintain a public face of this. Represent, baby! While installing I usually come into contact with people and I get the chance to open a dialogue with neighbors and visitors, a great way to introduce people to my art, public art, and art in general.

W: How do people react to the work?

MS: Ninety nine percent of the people I encounter overwhelmingly support it, but really most people don't even see it.

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