Over the last decade, there has been an increasing interest in a transient form of art that is marking urban settings around the world and has developed a thriving culture. Street art is becoming a formless creature embracing art which is found and inspired by the urban environment. Some people consider this kind of art as controversial and offensive, although on the other hand others find it appealing and attractive. By nature, humans are expressive; they have been drawing on walls since the beginning of humanity. Street art is an ancient art form in a more complex society which requires no formal artistic training or schooling and that in itself makes it so globally appealing for any person regardless of their background to express themselves in ultimate freedom. The use of media has evolved but the message has always remained the same which always translates into freedom. Regardless of whether it is interpreted as vandalism or public art, it attracts the interest of the art world.
Street art is any genre of art created outside in public view and is usually connected with social and political meaning. There are many different types of street art such as graffiti, sticker art, stencil, wheat pasting-street poster art, falsification of a street sign or an advertisement. Toward the end of the 1960s and in the beginning of the 1970s kids started writing their nicknames on walls, mailboxes and even in tubes and this came to be known as tagging. As hip hop culture spread from America, street art became a worldwide phenomenon growing in the 1980s as the symbolic language of the youth population. It was then that street art became legally restricted and a conflict started between artists and the authorities. Even though there was an evolution occurring in relation to street art during this decade, more colours, different styles and comic heroes or imaginary faces were drawn from each artist. In addition, movies and magazines about street art started to published.
Some types of street art are considered as graffiti on a wall while others are classified as actual works of art, depending on whether the artist was granted permission to create it. The techniques remain the same but having permission to express it alters the entire meaning because without permission it is simply considered as petty vandalism deeming it a crime.
Street art is being used by many people but it is not the same for everyone. There are artists that used street art as a way to express themselves and some use it to communicate or to raise awareness of social and political issues. Simply some just see empty spaces in the city and want to be creative with a sense of humour while others just like to have fun or take the risk of creating the art illegally without permission. Today's youth use street art to portray their social and political views and choose high traffic areas to express themselves and spread their message more effectively. For example, using a social network to express an idea will not be as effective as displaying a unique artistic creation that people cannot miss as they walk by it.
In many neighbourhoods, gangs use street art in order to mark their territory or their crew's power and status. They mark their territorial boundaries as a warning to other gangs and to the police. Sometimes a gang's graffiti sign or symbol may also be a memorial to a fellow fallen gang member. Because of the connection between gangs and graffiti, it has stereotyped the art and influenced society to mostly relate it with street violence and crime.
Fewer people are visiting galleries and even less have the funds to organise a gallery exhibition and that is the reason why these artists have turned public walls into their canvases to express themselves which could not be done on an average piece of canvas. It could be seen as a privilege that we are given the opportunity to view such works of art free of charge and for some it's a nice vibrant change after seeing hundreds of generic bland advertisements on a daily basis.
Paintings expressed on the walls are not equivalent to the paintings hung on the walls and this is apparent by how street art is perceived by the general population. The mere act of taking the street art from the outside of a building and placing it inside of a building completely transforms the work from anarchy to artistry and vandalism gains value. As soon as street art crossed over from criminal to commercial, it stopped being an expression and became an industry in its own right. For example, an artist can paint the Mona Lisa on the front of a house and this is art however according to the law it is considered as vandalism. Thus, reform comes into play and various actions can be taken to help legitimise street art. In order for this to happen, the government would need to cooperate with the general public and create a non profit organisation which works to protect specific public spaces as well as graphic festivals could be organised and designated areas for artists to express themselves could be given.
The definition of what constitutes as art can be argued to no end but legislature cannot define what that is yet street art requires social acceptance through legitimacy to be accepted as "art". These street artists do not aspire to change the definition of their artwork but rather question the existing environment around them in their own language. Through their works, they aim to communicate with everyday people about socially relevant issues without the intention to offend or create conflict but rather make a connection with the general public through their artwork.