Our East End tour wasn’t just about art. Our tour guide, Doug, discussed a lot of interesting points about this diverse community and its future. The East End is slowly being taken over by industry. Many companies are limited to where they can expand, since Britain is literally an island, and have turned to the East End, where buildings are cheap because the community is poorer than most. This leads to apartment building owners raising their rents to drive out old renters and attract new, wealthier renters who want a slice of the alternative neighborhood. This happened to Doug, who told us that within the four years he lived in the East End, his rent doubled. He also predicted that within 5 to 10 years the East End would be completely gone and replaced by industry.

Doug also discussed how street artists are under pressure to “sell out” their work. For example, he wasn’t a fan of Banksy but he did often make the comment, “We all have to pay the rent somehow,” suggesting that he understood why some street artists make their work into souvenirs.

The issue with this though is that street art is losing its essence; street art is a true test of an artist’s love for, well, art. Street art is extremely temporary; at any point someone could come and paint right over it, but that’s the beauty: it’s temporary.  It’s meant to be tampered with and to be seen and enjoyed as long as the public wants to see it, and it’s ok if it ends up being covered. Street art is also used to display people’s social and political views. This is also ruined by advertisement because the employer will have influence over the artist’s message.

A street artist points out that the honeybee is going extinct by painting a honeybee and the caption "save the bee.

A street artist points out that the honeybee is going extinct.

This graffiti piece of an ear patterned with an American flag represents America as the all-hearing ear, referencing PRISM.

This piece represents America as the all-hearing ear, referencing PRISM.

 

Overall, the East End street art tour encouraged many of us to reconsider what we thought of graffiti and its influence on a community. For more information, please visit http://streetartlondon.co.uk/tours/.  Also, Dr. Kohn assigned us a website project on Weebly.com. My project is on the East End art and propaganda. Hopefully the London class can get those posted up for all to read, enjoy and be educated!

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Samantha Schwanke

Samantha graduated with a BA in English and a Mass Communications minor in 2014. She is originally from Owatonna, MN and her hobbies include hanging out with family and friends, playing musical instruments (flute, piccolo, piano and accordion), watching movies, shaving her dog stitching kitchen towels….you know, the normal stuff. ​