The Impact of Street Art on City Image: A Recap

By Lauren Glass ‘13

What do you think about when you hear the term “street art?” Graffiti? Tagging? Famous works from Banksy or Shepard Fairey?

This would be my response, but the panelists at ArtStreet’s last Creative Culture Exchange took the conversation about street art in a different direction.

The panelists, Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s Director of Planning and Community Development, Garden Station founder Lisa Helm, and Dayton Circus Creative Collective chairman Jeff Opt came to the event in order to discuss the impact of street art on city image.

The panelists’ definition of appropriate street art was quickly agreed upon as public art, created by the community, and sanctioned by the property owner of the space in which the art is being created. Although I think this definition glosses over the philosophical drive of the traditional interpretation of street art, I did appreciate their push to dissociate the negative connotations street art has as vandalism. The panelists instead encouraged the notion that street art, or public art, under certain contexts, is something to be embraced.

And there’s something to be said for that. The panel recognized the potential of street art to beautify public spaces. Aaron Sorrell specifically mentioned how art is a cost effective way to “spruce up a neighborhood,” and Lisa Helm made a good point about how collaborative public art pieces can serve to bring the community together:

“I think it’s more valuable to the community when it’s the community that makes it… when you have art that’s a part of the community that created it, it has the soul of the community in it.”

So the panel addressed the positive aspects to street art, but what about the more controversial issue of getting permission to do it? A friend of mine once pointed out that getting permission for street art is problematic because street art can’t be forced. If people try too hard to get art up on these sanctioned spaces, he argued, they’re just going to churn out “mediocre” art.

Jeff Opt addressed this, however, when he stated that getting public sanction for any endeavor is crucial to its success. He related this to his experience obtaining the yellow cab building in order to house the Dayton Circus Creative Collective: “When people say, ‘how did you get Yellow Cab?’ I say, ‘I asked.’”

Ultimately, the three came to the consensus that there should be more public art in Dayton. The challenge now, they admitted, is getting the city, and its people, on board as well.

“The key is to find appropriate locations with the appropriate individuals,” Aaron Sorrell said, “there are a lot of blank walls that are potential canvases and I would like to see art on these.”

To learn more about ArtStreet's Creative Culture Exchange series, visit the ArtStreet website or call 937-229-5101.

Lauren Glass is a senior at the University of Dayton, where she is studying journalism. Currently working as a social media assistant for ArtStreet, she enjoys music, writing, and photography.

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