Pow! Wow! — The Festival That Uses Street Art To Transform Communities

Editorial Director, Life

People have always painted on walls. From the first cave drawings to the taggers bombing graffiti on New York City street signs and subway windows in the ’60s — humans like to tell their stories in public spaces. For years, that meant clandestine missions, carried out late at night. Sometimes, it still does. But over the past decade, the line between “graffiti” and “mural art” has eroded completely, allowing for civic art projects that all parties can get on board with.

In this episode of Uproxx Reports, we look at Pow! Wow! — an art and culture festival that started in Hawaii and is rapidly expanding across the planet. In July, Long Beach held their second Pow! Wow! festival, and the murals created for the event reveal a city that celebrates color and creativity.

“Pow! Wow! and street art in general, makes destinations of the city,” illustrator Jeff McMillan, one half of the duo The Draculas, explains. “If there’s an awesome mural on the side of a coffee shop, people meet at the mural, not the coffee shop. They become these points of interest.”

Murals are no longer “visual anarchy” — they’re a new (and also very old) form of storytelling. “I think public art allows people to be connected,” McMillan continues. “They can say, ‘I saw this mid-project, I saw it when they started, and now I see it every day.’ Public art is a way for cities to be relevant and show that they value culture.”

The connection lines at Pow! Wow! run in all directions — from the public to the artists and from the artists to one another. “I think every artists brings something new to the table,” says Defer, a graffiti artist turned muralist. “We become like family.”

Check out the video for more about how murals can transform our communities. Stay tuned for more pieces on public art and artists.

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