If you have ever wondered how and where to see the best murals from artists from around the world, attending a mural festival is your best. Long-established festivals like Art Basel Miami offer incredible opportunities to see murals, but so do a number of newer festivals popping up in cities across the United States that understand the value of a vibrant public art program. Plus, many of these festivals incorporate educational activities, music, and, of course, great food. From fledgling to well-known, these are some of the top mural festivals that you should plan to attend in the U.S.
Art Basel Miami (Miami, FL)
Probably the best-known mural festival is Art Basel, which takes place internationally in Hong Kong and Basel, Switzerland, and domestically in the Wynwood area of Miami Beach each December. While this art fair stakes its reputation on building connections between gallerists and artists, it is also host to a vibrant mural district. Wynwood Walls, a mural project initiated by the late developer Tony Goldman, turned the Wynwood area’s blank, windowless concrete walls into canvases for street artists such as Kenny Scharf, Barry McGee, Swoon, and Lady Pink. With 80,000 square feet of walls now covered in art, the Wynwood area has transformed from monotonous warehouse buildings to Art Basel Miami art district.
Life is Beautiful Festival (Las Vegas, NV)
This three-day event pulls together artists, musicians, and skilled chefs to promote positivity and community. While some murals are painted over from one year to the next, many others are preserved as permanent works in the city. In 2019, French street artist Mantra transformed the northeast wall of a residential building on historic Fremont Street with a mural of giant butterflies, giving viewers a masterclass in trompe l’oeil. London-based artist Lakwena created her bold “Just Passing Through” mural on an elongated wall in 2018. Its all-caps typography and saturated, summery color palette vibrate against the blue sky above it.
Pow! Wow! Long Beach (Honolulu, HI and other locations)
Founded by Jasper Wong, whose non-profit organization encourages a community-driven approach to creating and welcoming art, Pow! Wow! is held at locations around the world. Each version of the festival spotlights the location in which it is held, whether that be Long Beach, Worcester, or San Jose. The 2019 version in Hawaii boasted work from Shepard Fairey, Logan Hicks, and ONEQ among the 83 artists represented.
Wide Open Walls (Sacramento, CA)
Since 2016, Sacramento has welcomed over 80 new murals into its landscape courtesy of Wide Open Walls, a non-profit which aims to promote “diversity through artistic expression,” as its website indicates. Artists such as Lauren YS and Pixel Pancho have lent their visual talents to the concrete walls of Sacramento. The program doesn’t stop there, either. Wide Open Walls also facilitates other events during the year, such as The Mural Jam and Sac Republic’s Paint the Park.
Beyond Walls (Lynn, MA)
Beyond Walls’ mission is very clear; it aims to “activate underused public spaces to strengthen communities.” Al Wilson initiated what originally was entirely volunteer driven and, in 2019, established a non-profit that has contributed 46 murals to the North Shore community of Lynn over the past two years. Street artists such as Miss Zukie, JPO, and FONKi have splashed anything from colorful and irreverent illustrations to social statements onto the brickwork of various buildings in this industrial area.
HUE Mural Festival (Houston, TX)
The HUE Mural Festival is all about Houston – and all about the process of creating mural art. The festival’s website indicates that participating artists have 190 hours to create their work through techniques ranging from wheat pasting, airbrushing, or other traditional graffiti art techniques. Attendees get to see the works as they progress from start to finish and learn about the process through informal interactions with the artists. 2019’s roster included nine standout artists working figuratively and abstractly.
Murals in the Market (Detroit, MI)
Contributing to Detroit’s citywide revitalization is Murals in the Market, now in its fifth year. The ten-day event populates Detroit’s Eastern Market with educational opportunities including talks and tours. And, thanks to the contributions of artists local and international since the event’s inception, 120 murals now fill this neighborhood best known for its lively 19th-century market place. Take in some ambitious artwork while you enjoy some pierogis or square slices of Detroit-style pizza.
Crush Walls (Denver, CO)
2019 marked the tenth iteration of Denver’s “360-degree art festival,” as many like to call it. Located in RiNo, the River North Art District, the festival stretches across thirty blocks and features street art competitions, gallery shows, and brew parties with affiliate DRiNk RiNo during the festival’s nine-day run. Local property owners offer up their walls to hand-picked artists, 80% of whom hail from Colorado, and these street-art phenoms are given the freedom to do whatever they want.
CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show (West Palm Beach, FL)
Calling itself the “nation’s largest outdoor museum show,” CANVAS situates itself in the heart of Palm Beach during the second week of November. Not only can visitors see murals, but they may also see permanent installations as they wander through the event’s sculpture park overlooking the waterfront. Founded by gallerist Nicole Henry, the event has attracted artists including Kobra, Lonac, and Griffin Loop.
Wall\Therapy (Rochester, NY)
Wall/Therapy describes itself as a “community intervention project,” engaging local school children and professionals alike. In 2018, the event scaled back from the larger roster of artists of previous years, but in doing so cultivated stronger connections between artists and visitors. Mural art content has included a celebration of womanhood and strength on a wall facing Planned Parenthood, tributes to indigenous populations from the region, and playful text illuminating the sides of vacant buildings.
With a growing interest in bringing art to the people, U.S. mural festivals are the perfect way to experience art up close and meet the creative minds behind the work. From smaller affairs like Beyond Walls to events such as Murals in the Market, which marries street art with food, the rise of the mural festival as sought-after event seems like it will only grow.