TEACHING STREET ART FOR A LIVING
This is the story of how I came to dedicate the last six years of my life to teaching street art for a living. I guess to some of you, it will come as no surprise that this is my occupation and maybe some of you are curious about what it actually consists of and why anyone would even spend time teaching e.g. five-year-olds about graffiti and other artforms in the streets.
For the last six years I've been working on and off for STREETHEART a private association co-founded with my friend Christina Bennetzen, when we had both just graduated from university (Modern Day Culture and Cultural Dissemination) back in 2009. I guess it all sounds very fancy and high horse, but actually our project with STREETHEART was essentially about investing universitary knowledge into everyday life and get it out there for everyone to acces and use it.
ROBIN HOOD & SHARING THE KNOWLEDGE
During my years at university I felt like we we're all spoiled with new knowledge everyday and I could never quite grasp why I was presented with all this important history, theory and analytical tools only at university level. To me it all just seemed to need a little translation into everyday language, for it to provide us all with ways of grasping our modern life and look at it with curious and investigating eyes. Personaly, I came out of family where I was the first to take it all the way so to speak, so it became important to me to figure our a good way of sharing some of my insights in ways I knew my family could use. You could say that STREETHEART was founded as a sort of Robin Hood project - freeing all that golden knowledge from the books and university surroundings and taking it to the streets.
STREET ART - AN ETERNAL LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE CITY
The art on the streets first caught my attention when lived in Paris in the years surrounding the millenium. When I moved to Copenhagen it has just started reaching the streets here and I started out documenting it, only to save the images on my computer at home. it. As soon as Myspace hit us a few of us started sharing some of the street poetry, stickers, installations and posters that we're all over the streets of Copenhagen. I got sucked in to the excitement of it all and even launched into making street poetry stickers and writing words on walls. The written word out of the book into the city always fascinated me.
Christina and I both worked for the Danish Architectural Center during our student years, teaching kids and doing many, many guided tours for all kinds of people. We thus had a lot of hands on experience with teaching people of all ages and backgrounds and sharing with them sometimes pretty nerdy architect projects in new exciting lights. For our final thesis we opted to do a practical project and launched www.streetheart.dk, an online forum for street art devotees and street artists in Copenhagen. This quickly developped into us doing guided tours and workshops about street art in Copenhagen. Street art as an artform has a very broad appeal and people of all backgrounds and ages are drawn to and fascinated by what we sometimes refer to as Graffiti's cute and annoying littlebrother. Making art for the streets is like making love to the city I say. You invest yourself wholeheartedly in the city and donate your creativity without asking anything in return.
ART EVERYDAY EVERYWHERE
Street Art is the obvious choice of media when it comes to teaching some of those fancy and exciting cultural theories on art, urban living and everyday life. Why you may ask? Because it's art meeting us at a level where we're not expecting to be confronted with an art experience. It thus has the powerful potential of hitting us good and hard even when we're just moving busy and yet unfocused on our way through the city and maybe even through life. If we open ourselves to the experience of meeting art in the streets we start seeing the city through other eyes than our own and this opens a room for dialogue between ourselves and the city.
WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE STREET ART TOO
When we're not expecting the art experience, we haven't mentally prepared ourselves like we would before entering a museum or gallery and so we're not trying to be at our best or hippest behaviour while we contemplate the artistic works on the walls in respectful silence.
There has been no curating hands, investors, guides, directors, parents, teachers or anything else between us and the work of art. All we have is ourselves, the immediate surroundings and the work left behind by some anonymous artist who took creativity to the streets. All in all a very unique, close and direct meeting between the artwork/artist/beholder/City/Surroundings. This is exactly what I love about street art. It's ability to confront us and pull us back into the very moment in that specific spot we meet it. It's everyday art in our everyday lives. This form of everyday art provides us with a possibility of entering a form of dialogue with our surroundings, It reminds that we all share the city and even though we all work hard on shutting unnecessary and unknown faces (and people) out, there's so much to be gained by lifting uor head from the phone and taking in the immediate surroundings, including the people around you. It may feel disturbing and even stressful at first, but I firmly believe that we need to connect more with reality. We shut it out and hide in social media, which results in a disconnection from real people and surroundings. And I don't need to explain why that is bad.
Since we started this project the world has evolved and so has the street art scene. The artform itself peaked in popularity a few yesrs back with some Banksy mania and is now mostly a phenomenon we come across in our facebook feeds once in a while. Some people have tried to declare the artform dead as such, but there's still potential and power in taking the art to the streets, so even though the hype has moved on, street art still lives in the streets of the real world, you just have to look a little harder. Streetheart has undertaken so many different projects over the years and we say yes to every new adventure we meet, wether it be teaching five-year.olds about street art, curating fancy pamce exhibits on street art in our very own way or doing crazy and fun installations and workshops at Roskilde Festival every year.
So, this was the story about how I came about spending a big portion of my creative life teaching street art. I guess it was also a declaration of love to the urban art form and I hope it made you want to go out and discover the art in your streets. In my next post I will share with you a bit about our approach to teaching kids about street art. Thanks for reading.
www.streetheart.dk (in danish sorry)