Photographer discusses Austin street art

Jody Serrano

About 11 years ago, local photographer Rana Ghana could not walk down Guadalupe St. without smelling spray paint in the air and hearing the sizzle of local street artists doing their work. Those days are gone.

Ghana spoke about the dynamics of street art and the city’s efforts to remove it in a lecture sponsored by the Fine Arts Library Thursday evening.

About 40 students and members of the community attended Ghana’s lecture, which also addressed the recent closing of the Baylor Street Art Wall at 11th and Baylor Streets. The wall was established in February and featured the work of Shepard Fairey, most widely known for the “HOPE” posters he designed for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Conflict arose when many local street artists saw the wall as a public art space and covered up some of Fairey’s art with their own.

“The city wants to take the art away from us but the more effort they put into taking it down the more the artists put to keep it on,” Ghana said. “The artist is just going to go to the next corner.”

Ghana has been photographing different street art in Austin for more than three years. Although often referred to as vandalism and property damage by city officials and some local residents, Ghana said street art can include anything from murals and graffiti to stencils and tags. Stenciling is a technique where people take a stencil and paint the image on a wall or other surface. Tagging is when people write their name on various surfaces.

“There’s this misconception that these artists are on the street and on drugs but they’re not all like that, “ Ghana said. “There are people in TCK [a group of graffiti artists] who are wealthy and some who are street kids.”

Karen Holt, fine arts outreach librarian, said she created the event in an attempt to showcase the resources offered at the Fine Arts Library. She said she was inspired to invite Ghana after reading an article on her views about protecting street art in The Austin Chronicle.

“After living in Berlin, a city most known as ‘the graffiti mecca of the urban art world,’ I became fascinated with street art,” Holt said. “It is considered to be vandalism and many street artists work under the cover of night and hide their identity for fear of being arrested.”

Advertising junior Emily Bordages attended the conference to learn more about street art for her advertising project on documenting creativity. Bordages said she never realized street art was so big in Austin.

“I think it’s pretty cool that art can come in such a casual form, and they have something to say but have a different way of saying it,” Bordages said.