Recently, walking around Boulder and taking in the sites, I’ve noticed an ample amount of street art, most notably drawn/painted/stenciled by SMiLE, an anonymous Boulder artist. SMiLE’s repertoire ranges from portraits of Jack Kerouac and Brad Pitt, to a menagerie of animals, most especially cats. A little less than a year ago SMiLE had an exhibition in Boulder titled ‘Streets to Canvas’, and made a profound statement on the website promoting the event.

SMiLE states, “Art has always been in the vanguard of the worlds changing consciousness, and Street Art is the contemporary form of this vanguard. From the streets of Beirut to the alleys of Boulder, artists are leaving the studio to paint the barren walls of the towns and cities that raised them. Boulder raised me. There’s a tidal wave of our generations best artist’s hammering every plaza and town-square with free art that will be commemorated in Art History books in the future. Like all times, this is a beautiful time to be alive.”

I thought this was a wonderfully relevant and prescient statement, and it made me curious as to the history of street art and what other artists have come before SMiLE. After some research, I discovered that the term ‘street art’ became popular after the graffiti boom in New York in the 1980s, initially starting in the then largely vacant Soho area. The precursor to street art, or guerrilla art, was political or social commentary graffitied onto public spaces, and that rebellion later led to artistic and imagistic statements on public spaces. Much of current street art holds with the previous political satire graffiti, and uses ‘smart vandalism’ as a way to draw attention to social or political issues.

Banksy is perhaps one of the most prominent and famous street artists, based in London UK. He came into prominence in the 1990s, and like SMILE in Boulder, utilized stencils to create his art. Much of Banksy’s art is subversive, anti-war, anti-capitalist, and anti-establishment. His first famous mural, The Mild Mild West, depicts a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police. He has been much beloved and was nominated for the academy award for Best Documentary for his documentary entitled, “Exit through the Gift Shop,”, and was awarded Person of the Year in the 2014 Webby Awards.

All across the world street art is seen on buildings, bridges, walls, on any public structure really. Moscow highlighted street art in one of their public art festivals, and street art sculptures pop up all over the world. In 2011 Poland issued a permanent exhibition titled ‘Urban Forms Gallery’ that featured some of their elite street artists. The future of art, much like the future of technology, seems to be changing and evolving rapidly, and artists like SMiLE might be leading the way.

Theresa Duncan is primarily a student of writing and lover of literature, currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, England. She has previously worked for Ocean Magazine and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and enjoys learning about the esoteric eccentricities of every town she visits. She loves books of all kinds, climbing and bouldering around Colorado, and drinking a jag of Pimms with her tutors when she’s in England. She has a BA from California Lutheran University in English and hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D in Literature.