Feel free to touch the art in this walking tour led by an ex-graffiti artist who is treating the streets of North Brooklyn much the same way vandals do — like an art gallery.
Urban art tour founder David Meade steers patrons through the streets of Williamsburg and Bushwick on separate two-hour weekly excursions to expose raw — and often unsolicited and illegal — public artworks that have popped up on buildings, sidewalks, and street signs over the years.
While some see the works as a blight on the city, Meade considers the art as demarcating decaying areas from the developed, and wants to preserve the acts of creativity while they’re still around.
“Street art can make a statement in neighborhoods that are forgotten or on streets that are left derelict,” said the Williamsburg resident who did graffiti as a teenager on his native streets of the Bronx from the mid ’80 to early ’90s. “The crux of what I’m just trying to do is save and remember all of this art because some of it doesn’t last very long, so it’s exciting when you get a fresh clean piece.”
Meade, who was a former project manager for a construction company until he reinvented himself as a tour guide last year when he was laid off, saw the opportunity to give guided walks around his neighborhood when he saw that people took a strong liking to the street photos he posted using the mobile camera app Instagram.
He eventually expanded the business to Bushwick — a frontier for the spreading art movement, as he describes it.
“Williamsburg has had a vibrant arts culture and has been established. It’s just a powerful experience to walk around and look at all these artifacts of what people have been doing here for the last 10 to 12 years,” he said. “And Bushwick is exciting because it’s where a lot of artists are settling now and sort of discovering for the first time.”
On the tours Meade highlights vibrant street art of various mediums and styles, from traditional murals and free-hand graffiti to studio-prepared works such as drawings on paper that have been wheat-pasted onto walls, stenciled images, and sculptures.
Meade’s tours are not only good for enjoying the visuals, but also learning about the artists behind the works, such as Roa, a Belgium artist who paints large-scale depictions of animals throughout Williamsburg and Bushwick using aerosol paints on the sides of buildings.
On the tours, Meade tries to provide patrons a historical curation of the art — informing walkers about the transition from the spray-painted words of the graffiti movement in the ’70s and ’80s to the more free-form street art culture that emerged in the ’90s — to provide an objective perspective on the otherwise description-less works.
“I certainly try not to have too much of my opinion on the tour — I just try to show what’s there and what I found and uncovered.”
Street Art Walk in Williamsburg and Bushwick (Meet-up locations revealed upon purchase of tickets, www.streetartwalk.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org) Williamsburg tour, Sat., 2:30 pm, Bushwick tour, Sun., 2:30 pm, $20.