Lesson 1: Graffiti & Murals 

Vandalism or Art?

Graffiti VandalismWhen it first appeared, graffiti was considered vandalism, because often young people would spray walls, subway cars, park and public spaces (or “tag” them), without permission from the owners. Graffiti was sometimes simple words or signs, the name of a person or a crew, and sometimes more complex work. Often times graffitiing would land you in jail or earn you a fine and community work. However, somewhat in defiance and somewhat out of the need to create, people continued painting with spray, and the works got better and better.

Graffiti has gotten so good now that people authorize artists to paint on their walls, but not only that… some people pay to have graffiti created for their walls! With this development, some artists have become renowned the world over. And, thank goodness!

Graffiti is considered an art form, a mode of muralism, which now adorns many areas of Greater Fort Lauderdale (Broward County).

Graffiti vs. Murals


There was a time when painters actually used canvas as a place to paint, but ambitious artists looked for bigger and bigger surfaces, and eventually they started painting on walls. From the “al fresco” works of the Renaissance period to today, walls have been some of the largest “canvases” artists can use.

So what is the difference between a “graffiti” and a “mural?” Quite often we use those word somewhat interchangeably, but here’s the main difference.

A painting on a wall is called a “mural,” from the Latin word for wall: murus. Murals where spray paint is the main component are called “graffiti."

And where does the name “graffiti” come from?” you may ask… Graffiti actually is the plural for “graffito” which is an Italian word for… inscription or writing.

Muralism in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Muralism, in general, and graffiti are very popular now. So much so, in fact, that many artists specialize in painting big walls and spaces. These artists are a special breed! It is often the case that each mural takes several days of working outside (imagine that here in Broward County), sometimes they have to enlist help because the work is so large.  

Two cities, in Greater Fort Lauderdale, have really taken seriously the idea of using muralists and graffiti artists to bring beauty and creativity to people who live there and people who visit.

MURALThe Downtown Hollywood Mural Project has collected 26 works in and around the downtown area of the city. From Young Circle to Dixie Highway, and from Van Buren Street to Polk Street, the murals are sprinkled throughout this compact part of the city. Once your parents park the car, every mural is walking distance from one another. It makes for a wonderful afternoon or evening outdoor activity.

Get started by visiting the murals following this link. You will read about the artists and about the work.

Also, the area of FATVillage in downtown Fort Lauderdale is working hard to develop a culture that welcomes muralists and creative people of all types. Now, the “FAT” in FATVillage has nothing to do with body types or a food. It is an acronym which stands for Flagler+Arts+Technology!

Fat Village Art Walk

FATVillage boasts one of the largest murals in all of Greater Fort Lauderdale: an amazing piece by Leah Brown on NW 4th Street, west of NW 1st Avenue and before the railroad tracks. Although FATVillage does not have all of their murals on their page, your parents can help you “walk” down Flagler Avenue on a service like Google Maps, so you can discover all the art on the walls of this neighborhood.

Career Corner!

Scenic Artist

Artists everywhere help us see beauty where we could not see it before. Also, artists help us see worlds and places that only exist in our imagination. As a scenic artist you will be doing exactly that!

Whether it is transforming a regular street wall into a work of art, or creating the backdrop for a movie scene or for a special event, or inventing a dreamscape for workers at an office to take a brief recess; a scenic artist can work in any of those environments.

Scenic ArtistTwo things you may love about being a scenic artist:

First, you get to work on small and big formats. Every big piece, whether it be a mural or a movie set, starts with a small mockup. You get to draw the small version, by hand or on your computer, to later translate to the big format. You have to be good in the small things as well as in the big things.

Secondly, as a scenic artist you can choose to specialize in one type of art, like graffiti or muralism. Or you can decide to be good at several of them: murals and movie sets, for instance. In either case, your work will take you to different places and you will be in touch with different people. Once one project is over, you get to work with a brand-new team on the next.

Quiz Time!

Click here to take the quiz.

Let Your Imagination Fly

Some questions for you to discuss with your parents, siblings and friends:

Are there any murals near where you live?

Do you know of any other art form which was illegal before, but is now accepted?

Of all the murals, which one is your favorite? And, why?