VANDAL, New York City

One of two pieces by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, aka VHILS, serving as a dining area backdrop inside Vandal.

A person who knowingly destroys or mars something beautiful or valuable is known as a vandal. When graffiti is written illegally it no longer falls under the genre of street art, it’s referred to as vandalism. Rightfully so, in most cases. However, in this case, Vandal is a bar, restaurant and lounge whose inventive menu declares they are “celebrating a love affair between globally inspired street food and street art.” And that they are.

The entire place is enhancing, and or exploiting, a street culture vibe that no doubt reflects Manhattan’s Bowery and neighboring Lower East Side areas, further fueling the gentrification fire burning downtown. Architecturally, the 22,000 sq. ft., bi-level space was designed by Rockwell Group, but the mural-covered walls were curated by Japanese artist HUSH and showcase his own masterful work as well as that of six other world-renowned street artists, including: Apexer, Shepard (Obey) Fairey, eelus, VHILS, Tristan Eaton, and Will Barras. There’s also quite a few framed pieces hanging throughout the space by the likes of DFACE and Invader, to name just a couple.

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Berlin, Germany

"All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin." - John F. Kennedy, 1963
“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.” – John F. Kennedy, 1963

There are supposedly more than 6,000 artists who are trying to make a name for themselves in Berlin. Besides being considered by many to be the No. 1 party city in all of Europe, the streets of Berlin are always offering up something new to discover. It’s the multi-cultural capital city of Germany with a turbulent history so ingrained that inevitably gives the city its own avant-garde culture.

“Geben Sie Ihrer Kreativitat ein Zuhause,” translates to “Make your creativity at home.” As colorful and cosmopolitan as Berlin is, it’s equally gritty, industrial, and gruff around the edges – a historically divided city exemplified. You don’t need to be a freethinker or an artist to have an authentic Berlin experience, but it helps to certainly go in with an open mind. Ya’ gotta Berlin, to get out.

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San Francisco, California

Golden Gate mural work in progress by SF's legendary CRAYONE, in The Mission District.
Golden Gate mural work-in-progress by SF’s legendary CRAYONE, in The Mission District.

In San Francisco, there’s a five-hundred dollar per day fine for every day that your tag is not removed. If you’re actually caught in the act of tagging, you face a two-year prison sentence. So how did this golden City by the Bay become one of the greatest canvases for graffiti, street art and murals in the United States?

Since the 1950’s, San Francisco has been a magnet for America’s counterculture. From the Beat Generation to Burning Man. From the hippies of the Haight to the dot-com hipsters. Creativity abounds here and the once-cool neighborhoods in which artists could express themselves are continually being gentrified.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

Art literally in the streets on Spuistraat Centrum.
Art literally in the streets on Spuistraat Centrum. This is the colorful work of HERO de Janeiro.

Located in North Holland, Amsterdam is a Dutch city known for its artistic heritage. The variety of spices, ceramics, flowers, and deep culture that began centuries ago with the old Dutch traders and merchants only opened the doors of inspiration for artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. To this day, that door remains wide open for artists from around the world.

Amsterdam’s motto may in fact be “Leef en laat leven,” which translates as “Live and let live,” and convincingly summarizes the Dutch attitude and policy of an open and tolerant society. There’s also the saying “Gefoondeness Fressen,” that loosely refers to the idea that there’s so much “free food” in the street that you can literally eat yourself silly. Does a creative person need any more reason to visit this city? Actually, I can think of a couple others.

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New Orleans, Louisiana

Mural detail along Magazine Street in the Warehouse Arts District
Jazz inspired mural detail at The Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse Arts District

Welcome to ‘America’s Most Interesting City’. Call it what you like – “The Big Easy,” “Crescent City,” “NOLA,” or just good ‘ol “City of New Orleans” – it really is one of the most unique cities to visit in the US, with a wide variety of Districts for you to find your groove. Pronounced “no-aw-lenz,” the city is not on your way anywhere. You literally have to go out of your way to get there – and you should do so at least once to get a taste of the flavor of the culture of Creole.

Often referred to as “Downtown,” the Uptown neighborhood of the Warehouse Arts District could be called a sort of “Southern SoHo” with its cobblestone streets and loft space restaurants, bars and cafes. There’s no street art in the true graffiti sense, but there are plenty of galleries and museums showcasing art more traditionally. Look for Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and ROOT on Julia Street.

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Vienna, Austria

Vienna Calling from the free walls along the Danube River.
Vienna Calling from the free walls along the Danube River.

As a living museum, Vienna may be the only capital in the world that can take you from the old masters, Mozart, Klimt, Freud, and the Danube Canal all the way to the Rabbit Eye Movement of Nychos and beyond. It’s an original and beautiful city that just exudes art in every capacity – be it architecture, music, design, fashion, food, or the streets themselves.

BUSK's Three Monkey Heads signage for The Street Art Passage of the Seventh District
BUSK’s Three Monkey Heads signage for The Street Art Passage of the Seventh District

In the MuseumQuartier, take the stairwell that runs alongside the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien up to The Street Art Passage and its Invader tiled bridge that welcomes you to Vienna’s public micro-museum of national and international street art.  The passage itself brings you out to Breite Gasse and the cobblestone streets of Spittleberg in the bohemian Seventh District, also known as Neubau.

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Washington, D.C.

Section of the mural by Eric B. in Ben Ali Alley off U Street
Section of the ‘Phoenix My Love’ mural by Eric B. in Ben Ali Way off the U Street corridor.

For a city that is all of eight square miles in size, the incredible cultural diversity of the capital of The United States is enticing and inspiring. With the Capitol Building as a central point and the District’s divider marker between the NE and NW sides of town, aside from obvious architectural differences, it’s not so easy to tell where one neighborhood starts and another begins. That being said, there are a few distinctly creative areas in various stages of gentrification worth exploring.

Detail from the "Shop Small" mural by Aniekan in an alley off 18th St. NW
Detail from the “Shop Small” mural by Aniekan in an alley off 18th St. NW

You’ll find a wide array of interesting shops, funky bars and ethnic restaurants along 18th Street NW in the area known as Adams Morgan, between Florida Ave. NW and Columbia Rd. NW. It’s not a long stretch, but it certainly has a few noteworthy stops along the way. Check out Skynear Designs at 1800 Wyoming Ave., Crooked Beat Records, and the hoppin’ Tryst Coffeehouse, Bar & Lounge at 2459 18th St. NW. If you head west (left off 18th) on Columbia Rd. NW you’ll find another whole strip of outstanding drinking and dining diversity, including the bistro Mintwood Place at 1813 Columbia Rd. NW.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

The Operation Copenhagen Wall at Farumgade and Hillerodgade. Piece by Skabr.
The Operation Copenhagen Wall at Farumgade and Hillerodgade. Piece by Skabr.

Every now and then someone will ask me “Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled?” and I love to catch them off guard with my answer, Copenhagen. Maybe it’s because it’s a city that surprised me just as much. Maybe it’s because they spell Cirkus with a ‘k’. In any case, it was no place I ever expected to fall in love with in such a short time – in February no less. And yeah, it’s real cold.

Cold as the temperature may be, the city itself is full of warmth. The people, the culture, the food and the art have a very special air about them that makes you wonder why this city isn’t on more people’s radar. But then again, that may be the very reason it’s all so special.  There’s something to discover around every corner, while art and design are integrated into every aspect of life.

Small section of the "Evolution" wall near the Dong Energy Plant.
Beginning section of the “Evolution” wall near the Dong Energy Plant.

On the southern edge of Copenhagen is the free wall open-air compound at Dong Energy Plant, down Tommergravsgade in the industrial part of Vesterbro. You can’t miss one of the longest pieces of street art by a single artist, “Evolution”, the 557′ mural by Copenhagen artist Ulrik Schiodt. It’s showing a little wear, for it was painted over 15 years ago, but it remains ‘untagged’ with the utmost respect. It’s really something to see, as are the countless other pieces surrounding the inside and outside walls of this space along the harbor. Look for not just pieces but many wildstyle burners by Enuff, Simbie, Astek, Damon, Fase, Money, Hero and FUA’s Juse One to name just a few, for they’re constantly in flux. It’s a tremendous gallery to behold.

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Seattle, Washington

Back lot in the University District provides the perfect backdrop for a classic Rambler.
1960 Nash Rambler ‘American’ Graffiti – in a University District parking lot.

There’s no question that Seattle is a center for innovation and creativity. For dining, shopping and culture, not to mention a damn good cup of coffee, this unofficial capital of the Pacific Northwest really has it all wrapped up. Any road you follow to this “Emerald City” will truly bring you to a place that feels like your home away from home.

The industrial district, referred to as SoDo, is home to artists lofts, galleries, and assorted businesses including the Starbucks World Headquarters at the corner of 1st Ave. South and South Lander Street in the old Sears Building. If you head up South Lander to Occidental Ave. South, behind the FC Bloxon Co. warehouse, you’ll find the one-hundred foot long SoDo Freewall running along the Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail tracks. The graffiti tends to be more tagging and the occasional piece or character with a little bit of street art pasted on here and there. You will certainly find some gems.

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Atlanta, Georgia

Coca-Cola has always used art to express their visions of what Americana is. Artist Steve Hanley created “The Coke Car” – a ’69 Dodge Charger and pop-culture muscle car. Rolling street art.

The revitalization of Atlanta’s West Side has established the area as a more sophisticated destination for contemporary art galleries and dining. Warehouses and industrial buildings west of downtown are being transformed to create an alternative to the edgier East Atlanta.  Harboring a more underground art scene and some funkier niche outposts than its West Side rival, East Atlanta has a diverse range of street art and culture keeping the beat of the South.

Little Five Points (or L5P) might be considered East Atlanta’s bohemian mecca with a ‘Main St.’ vibe in an alternative neighborhood. Running along Moreland Ave. NE and bending down Euclid Ave. NE, you’ll find all the makings of an eclectic  culture with your cool skater shop, record stores, vintage clothing, novelty and new age, juice bars, coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and few local theaters, like the Variety Playhouse. The street art can mostly be found in the alleys and parking lots between or behind the buildings, but the murals and pieces are worth scoping out.

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