OFF THE WALL: A Semester Exploration of Graffiti and Street Art


On December 18th and hosted by the MFA Products of Design program at SVA, this one-night event was the culmination of a semester-long exploration of graffiti and street art. Led by Lawrence Abrahamson of IDEO, these seventeen designers from the Class of 2017 were proud to unveil design solutions inspired by a wide range of perspectives on this controversial art form.

 

Equal Parts

Design: Andrea Cameron, Gahee King, Cody Pfleging, Karen Vellensky, Jenna Witzleben
Equal Parts
is a website platform for artists and activists committed to social change as expressed through public art activism. Learning of the relative scarcity of female graffiti artists, the team saw the opportunity to empower women to integrate street art into social justice advocacy around feminism, income inequality, LGBTQ issues, and more. Using an intersectional feminist lens to analyze our society, Equal Parts promotes solidarity in all social justice efforts, and positions women to take their place in their preferred causes via street art, strengthening their role within the movements and in their own communities.

 

Street Artist's Toolkit

Design: Arjun Kalyanpur, Michael Kenney, Ailun Sai
The team examining the way graffiti and street art interacts with commerce created ‘The Street Artist's Toolkit,’ a collection of three artifacts—a copyright booklet, a pantograph, and a platform—that aid street artists and graffiti writers create, sell, and legally protect their art. Together, these tools allow street artists to bridge the gap from the street to monetized work.

How it works: A pocket-sized guide to copyright informs artists of their intellectual property rights; a ‘pantograph,’ provides an analog method of scaling down artwork as it’s being created, translating the expansive scale of street art to gallery-appropriate dimensions; and StreetMeet is a platform that facilitates street art commissions for galleries and corporate work by connecting artists and businesses.


FLIP: Creating Change with Change

Design: Alexa Forney, Saria Gebeily, Xumeng Mou
Flip—a program that allows members to "vote" for community causes with their spare change—addresses the dual issue of community engagement and funding of small improvement projects. Through their interviews with community members in several neighborhoods, the team learned that attitudes around graffiti were tied to community cohesion. Hearing a desire for support of local business and community service projects and not “just another art project,” the team created a system that would make it simple to invest locally with every purchase. 

How it works: Community members would join Flip and receive a card. When used at participating businesses, this card would round the total up to the next dollar. The difference would be contributed to a local organization of the customer’s choice.

 

Throwback

Design: Josh Corn, Julia Lindpaintner, Oscar Pipson
Throwback is an application that uses augmented reality to peel back the layers of art on the walls of the city. Using preservation as a form of advocacy, Throwback acknowledges the impermanence of graffiti as an art form and celebrates the ever-changing urban canvas. Approaching the subject from the perspective of policy, this team sought to broaden the range of responses to graffiti beyond complaints, reflecting the more nuanced relationship between graffiti and government revealed through the interview process.

How it works: Hold your phone up to the wall in New York City and see the current surface through the viewfinder. Then scroll back through time to discover what used to be there, whether it has been buffed or replaced by a new piece.

 

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White Wall Project

Design: Doug Fertig, DaYoung Hond, Will Lentz
The White Wall Project is a registry of exterior walls throughout New York City to be used as canvases for graffiti artists. Integrated into the city’s policy, the project creates legal opportunities to practice graffiti writing and gives the city a way to advocate for a form of graffiti that strengthens the community by connecting between artists, building owners, and the municipality.

How it works: Businesses offer unused wall space and artists apply for canvases—the city curates and connects the two.