I’m a sucker for any city filled with street art, and New York City stands out as one of the best. When you hang out in the right neighbourhoods, it seems that every corner you turn has some weird and wonderful art plastered all over the walls.
New York City street art is known for being both gritty and colourful – a unique style that somehow comes together to form one grungy but modern aesthetic. If you’re keen for a self-guided tour of New York City’s public art, here’s where you can find it!
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side (LES) in Manhattan is a current hotspot for NYC street art. This former immigrant neighbourhood still holds many different nationalities, and you’ll find this mix of influences reflected in the art scattered about the streets.
Most notable is the 100 Gates Project, which was an initiative to paint 100 roller security doors in the Lower East Side with interesting art pieces. The project took only two years to complete and the hundredth door was finished in summer 2016.
You’ll find most of the art in the blocks between Essex Street, Houston Street, Allen Street, and East Broadway. Just be aware that many of the gates are owned by businesses, so get there early in the day (before 11am) to see them when they are still rolled down.
East Village & Alphabet City
A little further north of LES, the neighbourhoods of East Village and Alphabet City have both embraced local art on their walls.
The First Street Garden (1st Street between 1st and 2nd Ave) has been updated this summer with art lining the walls along the north side. Head a little further west and you’ll find the Houston-Bowery wall, which is a constantly changing canvas of street art.
On Avenue C and 6th Street, you can see the huge Alphabet City mural curving around the building on the corner, which displays a cartoonish version of the alphabet. Head across to Tompkins Square Park on Ave B and explore the area for some more Alphabet City street art.
Little Italy was the starting point of the L.I.S.A (Little Italy Street Art) Project in 2012 – an initiative to turn the neighbourhood into a mural arts district to draw more visitors to the area. The project was such a success that the art pieces have now spread into the surrounding neighbourhoods of SoHo, NoLita, Chinatown, and Chelsea.
Many of the L.I.S.A murals are located on Mulberry Street between Canal and Grand Streets.
Bushwick has become somewhat of a tourism hot spot for street art with The Bushwick Collective project being one of the most well known street art areas of NYC. Founder Joseph Ficalora has invited many local and international artists to paint huge artworks on what were once industrial buildings, turning an area that was free from foot traffic into a gentrified hipster haven.
To find The Bushwick Collective, get off the L train at Jefferson St Station and walk five minutes north to Randolph St.
Hipster areas and graffiti art go hand-in-hand, which is why Williamsburg is one of the top places to get your street art fix. Instead of the large-scale murals that can be seen in other areas of New York, Williamsburg has more stencils, stickers, and political art on it’s compact walls.
The art is scattered throughout the entire neighbourhood, but a few hotspots in Williamsburg include the junctions on Keap and Hope, N 3rd and Wythe, N 4th and Roebling, N 6th and Meeker, and Kent and Grand.
The literal definition of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is actually the spot where you’ll find the area’s best street art. In 2013, eight acclaimed artists were invited to decorate the walls in an effort to spruce up the area, resulting in York Street becoming host to some enormous colourful murals.
To find them, get off the L train at York St Station and head across the road to the overpass.
Make your own arty discoveries in New York City on an Intrepid small group adventure.