Image challenge - IS 'street art' ART?

Image Challenge - week twelve

Can we call it Art?

So here is another exciting week with images. As for the past weeks we talked about Art, today I would like to stay wih the topic but maybe leave museums and art galleries and go the street. Can we find art in the street? Sure we can!!!

Recently, I've had a text about graffiti in the coursebook with my 12 year-olds. It really inspired me to prepare a lesson that would be completely devoted to street art. I wanted to check the way they perceive it and expand the topic a bit. Since street art is not only graffiti but also murals, symbols, tags etc. I wanted them to understand that painings on the wall can have a message - even very powerful one, as in case of Banksy, for example. The street doesn't only limit to the walls but also pavements/sidewalks and this is where 3D street art developed with top names such as Julian Beever.


'Graffiti is a poem the city writes to itself' (seen somewhere on the wall)

Vocabulary to pre-teach

tag - a signiture of an artist representeed by letters or an image
mural - a large picture painted directly on a wall or ceiling
epigram - a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement.
(there is also a special graffiti language but we don't want our students to become graffiti painters, instead we want to make them aware of a few facts and encourage to produce some language)

Level - interemediate+

Age - 14+

WARM UP -5 min

Ask your students some questions regarding graffiti:

some typical tags on the wall
1. Do you think street art is ART or VANDALISM? Why?
2. What kind of graffiti is commonly found in your town or city? Are they images or words?
3. Are they tags, murals, symbols, logos, icons or messages?
4. Where can you see graffiti?
5. Why do people paint graffiti?
6. What type of music is often associated with graffiti? (hip-hop, punk)

Suggested answers: Why? For political reasons, out of boredom, to express their anger, to mark the territory etc. Where? On the trains, train or underground stations, walls, tunnels etc.


Show your students two different types of graffiti. One with typical tags and signs and the second one with some painting. Students compare the photos telling which one they would call ART. Ask your students: Which of them would you like to see in your hometown? Why? Why not?

STAGE TWO - group discussion

Ask your students: Do you know any famous graffiti painters? Which ones? Why are they famous? Some students may be familiar with Banksy and his works, others not. Explain who Bunksy is and what kind of art he does.

Banksy is an anonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark homour with grafftiti. Banksy's works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. (source -Wikipedia)

Divide your students into 3-4 groups depending on the number of students you have in the class. Each group gets one of the Banksy's works. They are given a few minutes to discuss what it represents, where it is located and what is the message . Group discussion. A few examples below. There are plenty available on the internet.

Show me the Monet reworking of Claude Monet's Water Lillies, showing the connection between nature and mankind

                                                                                Hope for the future on the Israel - Gaza barier wall

No trespassing painted in San Francisco - comments on indigenous rights of native people whose lands have been invaded and occupied

                                                                            The Slave Labour mural as it appeared in May 2012

Then each of the groups presents its version and discusses it with the rest of the class. Tell them the true story of each of his paintings (you can find easily on the internet).


Street art doesn't only limit to walls. There are some artists who decided to use pavements and streets to create their art. Ask your students if they know any of them. Present briefly Julian Beever:

Julian Beever -  is known all over the world for his pavement drawings, more especially his 3D illusions, drawn in a special distortion to create an impression of 3D when seen from one particular viewpoint. He is often called Pavement Picasso. ( 

You can do this in two ways: either print out a few copies and put it on the board or open google graphics and show a slide show of his works of arts. Below a few examples: 

Discuss with the students if we can call it art. Students describe selected photos telling what they can see and where they think they were painted and why. For example, the first one was painted by the river to stop people from speeding. 

Since all the photos are 3D you can use them perfectly to practice the language of description (there is always something happening in them and they are colourful) and revise the vocabulary such as: in the foreground, in the background, in the corner, at the top, in the middle, in the top left-hand corner etc.

STAGE FOUR - pair work activity

Students open Pinterest and look for graffiti art. Their task is to find the one they would like to have on their bedroom walls.  Students work in pairs and explain each other why they would like to have a certain graffiti on their walls. Then they change partners. 

Follow up activities: you can print out students' names in graffiti fonts and hand in each of them. Students colour them the way they want. With younger students you can take some chalk and go out to do same pavement art:) You can also watch a film where is presented how Julian Beever works or there is also the film about Banksy's life and works that you can recommend to your students.

Hope you will enjoy the lesson with your students:)


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