Anybody who says Boston does not have a popping art scene simply has not looked hard enough—or has not been looking for the right kind of art.
Partly thanks to Northeastern’s Public Art Initiative and partly due to a bustling scene of young artists needing a creative outlet since the ‘90s, Boston has its own spectacular array of street art and graffiti peppered throughout the city.
It may be hard to figure out where you ought to look, especially if you are new to the city. However, an organization called Art Walks Boston may be the answer to your troubles.
Rob Larsen, the founder of Art Walks Boston and the guide for his tours, is no stranger to the world of street art and spray paint. The Boston native got into graffiti when he was 13 years old, and he has gone on to write three books. He has his art on display all around the world, has worked with famous graffiti and street artists, and has taught classes on the art form. Larsen also has a public collection of his thousands of photos of graffiti and street art from around the world.
Larsen’s Street Art and Graffiti Tour is about a two-mile walk, and goes on for two hours with many stops for explanations, questions, and expert analysis of the 10 or so pieces on the walk. In talking to Larsen, you can tell he’s an expert, able to explain the subtle details between graffiti and street art. He pays respect to the complexities of the art.
“Some people blur the lines, and it becomes a hard question to answer. There are aesthetic differences, there are techniques that are different, there is intent,” Larsen said.
He explained that some graffiti artists stick to the basics - "tagging," or putting up their name, in as many places as possible. Graffiti artists who get more political are stepping into the realm of the street artists. As far as material goes, street artists tend to use wheat paste, and graffiti artists tend to use spray paint. But, as Larsen pointed out, many artists often experiment with material and content.
The tour is split evenly into street art pieces and graffiti art pieces. The bulk of the street art works are the result of Northeastern’s Public Art Initiative, and thus are either on the Northeastern campus or near it. All of them are easily accessible to the public for those who want to go back. One of the most impressive pieces is a wall-sized portrait by El Mac, a nationally famous street artist known for his work in Miami. The work is Larsen’s favorite of the art tour, and you can tell in his explanation of the technique and materials that he is passionate about what he studies and teaches.
“I would love in a small way to get people to think about Boston as a place where this stuff happens. We’ve always had a great art scene and people have to leave because it doesn’t provide everything that they need,” Larsen said.
To check out future tours (20 dollars for each tour), go to http://artwalksboston.com. The next available Boston Street Art and Graffiti Tour is Oct. 2!