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3 museums - Street Art as a tool

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Many street artists consider street art to be little gifts to the citizens. Free art. At SAMA we agree. But street art does a lot more than providing a smile. We see how street art functions as a tool for social purposes. SAMA beliefs in democratic approaches and is known for its participative projects. To actively involve local residents in street art projects, SAMA has experimented with different methods, from organising accessible street art activities with food and music, to offering full decision making in choosing the art work out of various artist sketches, to co-creation of a mural. We also experienced how street art functions as a tool for dialogue. Three examples:

In the ‘Food4smiles’ project SAMA worked with the Fred Foundation, a Dutch organisation promoting a more conscious, healthy and environmentally aware lifestyle.

SAMA organised several street art workshops to discuss with local residents at what a healthy first 1,000 days looks like for their children. The parents' experiences and insights about their children's first 1,000 days were collected and incorporated into a mural created by a renowned street artist in the Confucius play park in the New West district of Amsterdam.

“We use art to gain more insights from the neighbourhood and to show everyone the importance of a healthy start in life.”

In the ‘Privacy Project’ SAMA worked with the city of Amsterdam and two housing associations on an innovative and activating programme on a city level, realising three monumental street art works in Amsterdam, in the New West, the North and the Southeast district. Residents of Amsterdam were actively involved in the project. With this programme SAMA used street art as a tool to create public awareness of ethical issues around privacy, digital rights, anonymity on the internet, and the impact of technology on society. This project showed how street art can be used to give visibility to and address urgent matters. SAMA was granted the Dutch Privacy Awards 2022 for this project.

“The jury believes that this project shows that you can bring privacy close to residents through, for example, graffiti-art murals. But also the whole process in which residents participate in thinking about the topics and realisation helps to give meaning to an abstract concept like privacy.”

With the project Street Art & Democracy, SAMA challenged local young residents to bring attention to a global issue, and let their voice be heard. Each participant chose one word to represent their thoughts on democracy or the environment, and the Amsterdam street artist duo Pipsqueak was here!!! taught them to turn it into a stencil and spray it on the wall. A live painting demonstration of a new mural addressing global issues by the artist duo was part of the programme.

'Street art as a tool' method

SAMA will further explore and develop the use of street art as a tool to discuss topics that matter in a collaboration pilot with the Amsterdam Museum and the Van Eesteren Museum. In this collaboration, we will organise street art workshops around selected topics for local residents and entrepreneurs. A new facet in this pilot for SAMA is that the shared thoughts, ideas and stories on these topics will be documented. The output of the workshops provide insight in what resonates with the local community and can help generate new and relevant content for public programming.

Why ‘street art as a tool’?

Street art is an accessible art form, and making art together helps conversations flow. Street art as a tool brings participants self-awareness because they express their thoughts and emotions in an artwork, and social-awareness because they discuss the topics together. Taking part in creating a public art work together also connects people with each other and their community, and contributes to a sense of proudness.

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