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When Streets Become an ‘Open Book’…

Art and literacy activism: With a spray can, some wheat paste and a ‘classic’ or two, street artists ‘read between the lines’!

Writing on the Wall

Photo of Nelson Rivas Cekis on a ladder painting his mural 'For the Love of Books'

‘Writing on the wall’ ©Nelson Rivas Cekis

There is no doubt that street artists from around the world have written yet another ‘page’ in the history of social activism. From anonymous alleyways to archways, walkways and subways, the city itself has become a canvas and its walls are given voice.

Thanks to the ‘poignant, thought-provoking, ironic and humorous works’ of Bansky and to breath-taking participatory street projects like 2011 TED Prize winner, JR’s “Inside Out”,  the stenciled, sprayed, stuck on, sometimes scathing social commentary of the hooded-artist, has earned global recognition.

Street Sm(Art)

The leitmotif of literacy, of literature, has slid into the limelight from out of even the most crepuscular urban corners of street galleries far and wide:


  • Brooklyn – ‘For the Love of Books’

The acrylic spray, marker, and brushstrokes of Chilean artist Nelson Rivas aka Cekis.

Mural of a child reading a book by Nelson Rivas Cekis, entitled 'For the Love of Books'

Image: ©Nelson Rivas Cekis


  • Paris – ‘The Book-worthy’

French artist Charles Leval aka Levalet responds theatrically to the city’s architecture, with india-inked, wheatpasted artwork and props. Notice the real copies of Camus’ L’étranger, Emmanuel Kant’s Métaphysique des Moeurs, Émile Zola’s L’Assommoir …

Close up of Levalet's 'L'etranger', featuring a man reading the book by Camus.

Image: ©Levalet

Full view of Levalet's 'L'Etranger', a paste-up of a man reading Camus' book by the same name

Image: ©Levalet

Paste-up of a man reading Emmanuel Kant's 'Métaphysique des Moeurs' by Levalet

Image: ©Levalet

Street art by Levalet of a man reading Émile Zola's 'L'Assommoir'

Image: ©Levalet


  • Pittsburgh – ‘Literacy Windows’

Americans Carolyn P. Speranza / Lisa Link use digital photo-montage on vinyl to create this lucarne of learning. See the amazing process!

Mural by Carolyn P. Speranza and Lisa Link depicting opened books

Image: Pghmurals


  • Lódź – ‘The Key to Knowledge’

Polish artist Marcin “Barys” Barjasz, book by book …

Mural by Marcin “Barys” Barjasz entitled 'The Key to Knowledge' depicting a stack of books in the shape of a hand reaching for a lock

Image: Regina Lang


  • Berlin – ‘Cut it Out’

The thought-provoking stenciled and sprayed paste-ups of German artist Alias

Stencil by Alias of a boy reading a book called 'Cut it Out'.

Image: ©Alias


  • Philadelphia – ‘Reading: A Journey’ / ‘Moving Towards Your Dreams’

The acrylic murals of American Donald Gensler

Mural 'Reading: A Journey' showing a girl reading a book by Donald Gensler

Image: Philadelphia Mural Arts

'Moving Towards Your Dreams', a mural by Donald Gensler depicting two boys reading books

Image: D. Gensler


  • Lisbon – ‘Between the Lines’


'Between the Lines', street art by an unknown artist showing a man sitting on a pile of books, and reading one

Image: Reri via Mulpix.com


  • Brooklyn – ‘Vandal Series: NYtimes’

British artist Nick Walker, known for his stencils, photo juxtaposition, freehand artwork

Street art by Nick Walker, part of his Vandal series. Depicts a man reading the New York Times

Image: ©Nick Walker


  • New Orleans – ‘Louisiana Blue Note’

Cover to cover, the hyper-realism of French artist MTO

Hyperrealistic mural by MTO entitled 'Louisiana Blue Note', showing a house-sized man reading

Image: ©MTO


Street Artivism, when artists truly do “have something to spray” …


  • Further:

For a video portrait of Levalet and his artistic process: ‘Parole de Murs’. If you happen not to speak French, don’t worry … the walls will translate!

Street Sm(Art) in Harlem

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