To celebrate the launch of our new and amazing Camden Store (we’re blowing our own trumpet but it’s true) we commissioned Global Street Art to create a Dr. Martens mural on Camden High Street. As well as collaborating with us, Global Street Art organise community projects, nurture and give exposure to street art talent from around the world and create hundreds of original works of outdoor art a year. We caught up with their passionate co-founder Lee Bofkin to talk all things street art.
Lee, for the uninitiated, can you tell us a bit about Global Street Art?
Our overarching mission is for people to live in painted cities. We were founded in 2012 after my career as a break-dancer finished due to a torn knee – so I started photographing and documenting the graffiti scene. I started archiving and classifying all these images I had and it just grew from there. Now Global street art is a global community and resource with over 100,000 images and nearly half a million social followers.
Are there any projects that you’re particularly proud of?
We worked on a project in Camden called ‘Art For Estates’ where we brought together a diverse mix of artists who created artwork all over this inner city estate. The response was amazing – it goes back to our mission statement of living in painted cities. The art helped to start a conversation in the community and bring people together. It’s a beautiful thing and hopefully we can do more of that sort of thing.
How do you work with street artists in the UK and around the world?
We act as a network for them and host their imagery on our website – in a sort of directory. In terms of painting we can connect them with organisations and remove some of the limitations, so we’ve now got over 1,500 pieces of legal street art up which is amazing.
You talk about ‘legal’ street art, what are the legalities for someone wanting to go out there and paint on walls?
It’s basically a matter of whether you ask permission. I wouldn’t deter anyone or any kids who want to be street artists from going out there and practising. You need to hone your art and draw and paint but there’s no substitute for putting up large scale work, outside. You do need that practice. There are legal walls in London where you can go any time with your paints and create art without any fear of being prosecuted. So there are more spaces now and we’ll campaign for more.
There’s a ‘fringe’ aspect to street art, where it might not have always been appreciated as a valid art form. Is that changing?
There are three facets to street art where it’s seen as an art form, a subculture and a crime. There are artists who have changed the way it’s seen and have become commercially successful. Banksy is an obvious one. Street art is so many things, there are so many kinds from signwriting and calligraphy to 3D art – basically what connects it all is that it’s creating art outside on walls. Anything that is done in a public space will always have that rebellious spirit. So although it is more accepted now, the rich heritage of street art in all its forms will always set it apart.
You’ve worked with artists all over the globe – where do you find the best street art?
What surprises most people about street art is how massive it is. It’s everywhere, so it’s hard to choose. South America does have a history of great street art, in Brazil and Sao Paolo you can see some pretty special stuff. But each country has its own indigenous cultures, that might be sign-writing or using street art for political messaging.
What is it about street art that you love the most?
It brings people together and unites people. The very act of engaging with something outside, having to go outside and see something or create something is rare these days. Millennials are lonely, the fact that IRL [in real life] is even a term… I learnt that recently and was shocked. So street art is great for generating conversations, feeling connected and making people feel pride in their surroundings.
Finally… what do you stand for?
Empower yourself by empowering others.