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Street Art

Dec. 19, 2007
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UW-Milwaukee photography student Jeremy Novy, 28, believes in the power of art— specifically, street art. Novy has completed more than 50 public or street art projects throughout the city. Through these actions, he strives to beautify neighborhoods that are often forgotten or overlooked by revitalizing boardedup storefronts and buildings.

What exactly is street art? Street art is anything that isn’t graffiti— and all over the world street art is newly accepted as an art form. Since it is new, there aren’t as many rules. It’s wide and open. So there’s no one to jury your art or say, “No, it isn’t acceptable.”

What subject matter does street art deal with? Street art covers everything—and can be very political or very against the status quo that might not be acceptable in a gallery. Sometimes galleries are afraid to pick up political art, or just don’t want to show it. Street art also reaches a wider demographic of people, and touches impoverished people as well. Art in a gallery might not be reaching all the people.

What is the purpose of street art? Street art may wish to say something, or is used to beautify an area, and has a very temporal or ephemeral quality, which is what the artists like. It’s also interesting how people can interact with the art. They can add to street art. I covered four boards at the vacated Laacke & Joys building on Water Street with doors, and at Christmas someone actually put wreaths on each one, added to it, which I liked.

What process do you use for your street art? I did a piece on North Avenue that was site-specific for a boarded-up storefront that would also be aesthetically interesting. After researching the Wisconsin Historical Society Web site, I discovered typewriters were invented in Milwaukee. So I copied pictures of typewriters from the 1950s and had the images printed and enlarged. Then you stencil or wheat-paste on the buildings or boards, so nothing is permanently damaged. The whole process takes four to five days. Usually street art uses inexpensive materials because it is temporary, and you never know if it will remain a week or a year; I’ve had both.

And what do you feel is the benefit of street art? Street art allows anyone to participate in art—artist and viewer. I’m now working with a group called IN:SITE that connects artists to communities that are looking for street or public art to revitalize older buildings. Also, when I’m rejected from a gallery, I can still put up street art, find joy in creating and don’t have to ask permission. By beautifying something dilapidated or forgotten, or be involved with social issues, I can still have an impact on the world. To see Jeremy Novy’s portfolio or pictures of his street art, visit www.jeremynovy.com.


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