Brice O’Connor / July 30, 2019
The phrase “slap a coat of paint on it” is taking on a whole new meaning as property owners and public officials nationwide seek innovative ways of transforming their buildings and communities. Street Art, a balance of murals and stylish graffiti, is being used to give buildings a new identity while revitalizing neighborhoods into warm energized communities.
Graffiti, which has historically associated an area with poverty and dilapidation, can now be seen as uplifting and vibrant when welcomed, permitted art takes form. Patrick Verel, author of Graffiti Murals: Exploring the Impacts of Street Art, has found that graffiti murals are an opportunity for property owners to prevent random acts of graffiti, maintain control of their property, and enhance the tenant experience. A great example of this approach is located on Lewiston’s Centreville Garage along Pine Street. National street artist and muralist Arlin Graff was hired to transform the otherwise blank concrete wall of the Centreville Garage into a large-scale piece of art.
Portland, Maine, long known for its Friday Art Walks and its entrepreneurial spirit, is showing sparks of this artistic trend, and will likely continue to show more. A fantastic expression of street art can be viewed abutting Tommy’s Park in Portland’s Old Port, on the side of Jim Brady’s newly renovated 80 Exchange Street. The artist behind this 56-foot piece of art, Will Sears, hopes the mural “brings a sense of warmth and joy to people.” Additionally, street art pieces can be viewed on the side of Blyth and Burrows at 26 Exchange Street and outside Cloudport at 63 Federal Street.
Properties and retailers are also using street art, leveraged with social media, to draw increased foot traffic to their storefronts. Providing visually interesting backdrops for photos is a huge draw for users of apps like Instagram. Even if these photo-ops don’t produce high increases in shoppers, app features like geo-tagging and hashtags help boost brand awareness. The “Pink Wall” at Paul Smith in Los Angeles is a perfect case study in this effect. The store, which has been painted pink since 2005, has recently drawn thousands of Instagram users, most of them millennials. Paul Smith, however, provides high-end, expensive professional attire—young millennials are not their ideal clientele. Despite the meteoric rise in foot traffic, Paul Smith’s LA location has not seen a significant rise in shoppers. While retailers can certainly leverage street art, they should do it strategically to attract the right demographic.
With Maine’s economy heavily invested in tourism combined with continuous efforts to grow and strengthen our communities, don’t be surprised to see your daily travels becoming a little more scenic in the future. While you appreciate Maine’s natural beauty, keep an eye out for which brick and mortar canvas will be transformed next.