Guerrilla art: neighborhood beautification without the blech

By on Jul 6th
sacramento guerrilla art, sign poll cozzy

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker. Used under Creative Commons license.

My neighborhood definitely lacks offbeat bite. There are cute houses, but they're pretty standard. There's not much micro neighborhood pride. We barely know our neighbors. I want the place to have some cache, and I want it to feel like mine.

I bet a lot of Homies nodded your heads at SOME part of that intro. Yeah? This guerrilla art inspiration post is just for you. Guerrilla art is the catch-all term for art placed outside — to varying degrees of legality — usually anonymously. Sometimes it draws attention to neighborhood features, sometimes it's funny, and it's not usually destructive (though it's often mischievous.)

You may be familiar with some forms of guerrilla street art, like yarn bombing, which is a pretty well-known recent entrée to the street art world. But what are some other ways to give a neighborhood a kick in the pants?

Character Installations

Photo and art by Will Scobie. Used under Creative Commons license.

This is a super simple project. Get together with friends or family and crank out a few characters or scenes that can go up easy with staples or tape.

You'll need:

  • Cardboard — I always have a stash because we're constantly ordering from Amazon, but if you need boxes, visit a store before trash day and ask.
  • Magic markers.
  • Spray paint, if you want. I've been loving Rustoleum Double Coverage Primer.
  • Utility knife and blades.
  • A hard surface on which to cut.
  • A staple gun or packaging tape.

Play around, draw a dinosaur or a Dr. Suessian tree. Don't overthink it.

If your character would look better, cut your image out by laying it on a cement floor and carving with a utility knife — with a fresh blade!!

Find telephone poles, street corners, and fire escapes for your new friend. Place, and enjoy.

Moss graffiti

This has long been on my to-do list.

Mossenger and Anna

Photo by webponce. Used under Creative Commons license.

Legend has it, if you mix a can of beer, a half-teaspoon of sugar, and several clumps of moss in a blender, then apply to a shady, moist wall in a shape, you'll have your own moss graffiti.

Guerrilla gardening

I wasn't interested in this until I moved next door to a lovely school building with unkempt grounds. Now, seed bombs sort of pique my interest.

You could go two ways with guerilla gardening. Some people take over uncared-for urban green spaces, like traffic islands, and plant vegetables and flowers which they maintain and eat — where appropriate. This is actually an organized movement in many parts of the world. Here's a page of tips for getting started.

You can also seed bomb. Make your travels through the neighborhood more productive. You can use a tennis ball to spread native seeds as you ride your bike, or you can use this simple technique to make fun-to-throw seed bombs.

Seed bomb thrown!

Photo by Platform London. Used under Creative Commons license.

  1. Wash a dozen eggs.
  2. Use an awl or a pick to tap a small hole on either end of each egg. Blow the contents out (you can also shake them, if you want to use the egg. It just takes more time.)
  3. Wash the eggs again.
  4. Fill with your pre-selected assortment of native seeds and a bit of soil or compost.
  5. If necessary, use a bit of cotton rag to re-plug the holes.
  6. Replace eggs in their carton, and tuck in your bag, ready for a walk.

Lost Signs

Lost dog will bite your face off

Photo by misterbisson. Used under Creative Commons license.

Fake lost signs are the hot new rage, and they are so easy to make, being that all you need is a computer and a printer. Or, really, a Sharpie and a piece of paper. They're a really easy starting place — you don't have to deal with your feelings of guilt/nervousness for semi-legal postings if it looks like you're merely posting a flyer.

Take a look at The Daily's collection of lost signs to get ideas.

These are just the beginnings of my guerrilla art aspirations. What street art is on your list to tackle?

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.