I’m a big fan of street art and exploring all the wonderful sites located around the world. While much street art is created covertly, some of it has been created as part of special government-sanctioned projects, such as street art festivals. With many street art festivals taking place around the globe, it’s a great chance to see street art being created and take part in other fun activities. Here are ten of the best annual festivals that are being held this year.
January: Aliwal Urban Art Festival in Singapore
The Aliwal Urban Art Festival took place on the 14th January 2017 this year for the third consecutive time. It will hopefully return around the same time in 2018. Part of the Singapore Art Week, it’s organised by the Aliwal Arts Centre and takes place in the cool Kampong Glam district. As well as live graffiti displays and an exhibition, the festival usually also includes workshops, live music performances and skateboarding displays. Throughout the rest of the year, the Aliwal Arts Centre is well worth visiting, with year-round performance and events.
February: POW! WOW! in Hawaii, USA
While “POW!” signifies the impact that art has on a person, “WOW!” is the reaction that art has on a viewer. Together they form the name of this annual art and music festival in Hawaii. Aiming to bring world famous artists to this tropical outpost of the USA, POW! WOW! takes place each February (already occurring between 12th to 17th February in 2017) in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu. While the murals being created are the centrepiece, there’s also separate exhibitions, a talk series, a concert and more. The festival also tours around the world between each edition. Previous events have been held in locations such as California and Taiwan.
More Info: http://powwowhawaii.com
May: First Coat in Toowoomba, Australia
Taking place for the first time in 2014, First Coast is set to return to the city of Toowoomba for the forth time this year, between the 19th and 21st May 2017. Located 90 minutes inland from Brisbane, the previously plain walls of Toowoomba have been gradually transferred by the previous festivals. There’s now over 50 stunning murals, a great sight to visit year round, including on regular walking tours. The events for this year’s festival are yet to be announced. They will likely include the official opening with live music, mural tours and the live painting of a dozen or more new murals.
More Info: http://www.firstcoat.com.au
June to July: Monumental Art Festival in Gdansk, Poland
Pioneered by Piotr Szwabe (Pisz), a great painter and culture animator, the Monumental Art Festival has been running annually since 2009. It’s gradually transforming what was once a dull and uniform tower block district in Poland into the largest collection of murals in Europe. Each year a series of four to five new thematic wall paintings are created during the festival and presented on the final day. Last year it took place between the 29th June and 10th July 2016. Themes have included “Waiting”, “Each Day Counts” and “Road is the Happiness”.
July: Upfest – The Urban Paint Festival in Bristol, UK
Billed as Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, Upfest will once again take place in Bristol (the home of Banksy) between the 29th and 31st July 2017. 2016’s’s festival saw 30o artists participating, and this year similar numbers are expected. They will work at multiple venues centred around the 1.3km stretch of North Street in Bedminster, south Bristol. The Saturday and Sunday are designated as painting days, before the Monday is devoted to viewing and family workshops. Venues included the Tobacco Factory, which will also feature music areas, art sales, urban clothing and a food market; the Red Point Climbing Centre, home to some of the biggest artworks; and the Upfest Gallery, the year-round headquarters and gallery space for the festival.
More Info: http://www.upfest.co.uk
August: Under Pressure Graffiti Festival in Montreal, Canada
The Under Pressure Graffiti Festival was founded in Montreal back in 1996 by Seaz and Flow, a pair of graffiti writers in an attempt to change public perceptions of graffiti. Continuing to be held each year in August, it’s the largest and longest running festival of its type in North America. Last year it was held between the 8th and 9th August 2016, and celebrated its 20th anniversary. With a strong focus on community involvement, the festival also includes live music stages. A bboy and bbgirl battle occurs each year on the Sunday afternoon. Outside of festival time, head to Catherine Street and Denis Street in the city to check out the best street art.
More Info: http://underpressure.ca
August: Vilnius Street Art Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania
For the last four years, an annual street art festival has taken place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. In 2016 it took place between the 22nd and 30th August. Last year one of the key projects was “Vanishing Trolleybus”, with various trolleybuses decorated, designed to disappear into their environment. Previous year’s festivals have seen contextual murals created in the Train Station district, plus on an old water tower at Vilnius Airport. One of the most interesting works was anonymous artist Mobstr’s work on an old Soviet-era building that reads “In the future every building will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” (see a photo here). Exhibits and public forums are also held concurrently.
August to September: NuArt Festival in Stavanger, Norway
First held in 2001, the NuArt Festival is held each year in the city of Stavanger at the start of September. (In 2017 it will be held from the 31st August to 2nd September.) Declaring itself to be the world’s leading celebration of street art among its peers, it covers the full gamut of street art. Graffiti and muralism to comic culture and activism are all covered. In particular there’s a focus on the progressive side of street art. As well as invited artists leaving their mark on both indoor and outdoor walls, there’s also a series of exhibitions, performances, interventions, debates and workshops held across the city. Current trends and movements in street art practice by some of the world’s leading practitioners and emerging names are covered.
More Info: http://www.nuartfestival.no/home
September: Life is Beautiful in Las Vegas, USA
Life is Beautiful is principally a music festival that takes place each year in Downtown Las Vegas. Previous headliners have included Stevie Wonder, Foo Fighters and The Killers. But each year there’s also a significant art component, with murals and installations created in and around the festival site in the lead-up. Most of them also remain after the festival. In 2015, the line-up was curated by Charlotte Dutoit of JUSTKIDS. The art works created include a Fear and Loathing tribute from Ruben Sanchez and trash-scultpure meerkats from Bordalo II. There was also an ‘Art Motel’ created by APEX and an appearance by Banksy’s All City Waterfall truck. This year’s festival takes place from the 22nd to 24th September 2016.
More Info: http://lifeisbeautiful.com
Various Months: St+art in India
St+Art India foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to take art works from out of galleries into public spaces in India. It has held various urban art festivals around India, most frequently taking place in Delhi. The most recent two festivals took place in Bangalore, during October 2016, and Hyderabad, between 1st and 12th November 2016. A mixture of Indian and international artists created murals, with the festivals also featuring installations, talks, screenings and workshops. For the most recent festival in Delhi, another component was WIP – The Street Art Show. Over 100 shipping containers were transformed into artworks, before being let loose to travel around the country after the end of the festival. No details have been released about the festival in 2017, but regular curated tours of previous works are announced through their Facebook page
More Info: http://www.st-artindia.org