The Future of Street Art is Canvs
&co (pronounced Andco), located in Jersey City, heralds a second floor workspace that caters to a wide variety of ‘creatives’. In this imaginative ecosystem, those ‘creatives’ are inventing, designing, and implementing the latest and greatest innovations to guide consumers into the 21st century. Whether it’s a phenomenal design for a new building to a new line of code for an old application, Andco is a professional housing unit that provides innovators a workspace for ideas to flourish.
And it is within this workspace, that a firm is specializing in street art and this firm is unlike any other that I’ve seen. Their specialization is graffiti and they don’t go around ‘tagging walls’ or imprinting their graffiti on buildings. They do, however, do graffiti in a specialized way; a more modern, a more technological way…
This team searches far and wide, nationally and internationally, looking for the best graffiti and murals on building walls, enclaves, and any other area on the planet. One of the highlights that make their graffiti-mural hunts very popular is that they search for flawless art that always convey a message to the masses. This message, depending on the location and the art, brings a type of inspiration to the community. For some, this ‘uplift’ could be a call to revolutionize the community, sometimes it could be a call to arms to improve self in regard to one’s thinking or social welfare. For others, the mural can sometimes convey a message to the viewer to ‘respect our creativity and community’. However the message of the mural is delivered, the staff at CANVS captures it and represents its colorful imagery in ‘app form’.
Receiving tremendous support from the various communities these images are sheltered in, these massive murals and graffiti works of art are simply amazing as the staff at Canvs walk into these urban ecosystems, interact with the ‘locals’ and the famous artists who created them, and record them for all the world to see. All in the palm of your hand.
Striving to be one of world’s largest interactive street art apps, this dream has been made into reality by the minds of a phenomenal team of ‘creatives’: ‘Ralph Andre’ - CEO; ‘Lorren Cargill’ – Chief Operations Officer; ‘Ana Garcia’ – Community Outreach; ‘Rachael Andre’ – Publicist, and a host of many other contributors to the CANVS brand.
Recently, I went to an event sponsored by CANVS called ‘The Future of Street Art.’ at the Andco building in Jersey City and this event made me realize how dedicated the CANVS brand is at preserving Street Art, respecting the artist, exploring the fundamentals of Street Art, and creating an understanding as to how street art is one of the necessary elements into preserving the culture of a community.
The Future of Street Art panel discussion was moderated by Dailymotion’s Global Head of Music, Simon Kellman; with panel speakers: Community and Art Activist, Catherine Hart; Social Entrepreneur & Scholar in the field of Community-Based Art & Moral Education, Jordan Magid and Erin Ko, who specializes in combining Art and Technology into a full embodied artistic experience.
Prior to the panel, I had the chance to discuss how CANVS operates with the head of Community Operations, Ana Garcia. Very positive and fully immersed in the CANVS culture, I asked Ana about the overall goal of CANVS and her response was very heartfelt as she described CANVS as, ‘creating a unique user experience unlike any other with artists, app users and the artwork’. Explained further, CANVS’ application allows users of the app to examine the artwork and also obtain directions to the artwork (internationally and nationally) as well as gain understanding to the origin of the piece by a providing viewers a brief biography of the artist and link to the artist’s platform. Some of these pieces are not easy to come by as the CANVS team navigates the different personalities of the artists, navigate the artist’s corresponding ecosystem, and gain respect from the community by asking permission from the artist to place their work on the app. With over 100+ murals to date, they are growing as a company and hope to continue to record and mark these exquisite murals to CANVS’ growing database.
Having a chance to speak with the Co-founder of the company, Ralph Andre, he provided a few words in regards to Canvs, Creativity and Technology:
‘We are experiencing one of history's highest rate of change in technology and innovation and in order to adapt to this change, we have to recalibrate the way we see the world. True innovation occurs on the next curve and its up to us to open our minds to see the potential of what’s ahead. Having a good idea is no longer good enough. Our ideas must ignite passion, relevance, and most importantly, a human connection. You want to put your imprint on society? Then look forward and take your thinking to the next curve.’
And with the implementation of the CANVS app, he has applied those words into physical form as he and his team continue to craft a technological bridge linking international artists and local artists via a free application that showcases the best and brightest in the art industry.
CANVS and the Preservation of Street Art
As I sat down to hear the panel discussion and eat a delicious assortment of vegetables and beyond meat products by Jersey City’s own @Veggies On The GO and sip a fabulous red wine poured by CANVS’ own bartender ‘Alee’, I listened in on the panel as they discussed how street art has evolved from train-car based signatures to exquisite works of art and how major corporations are ‘bootlegging’ the mural scene to inexpensively create these ‘Adobe Photoshop’ murals that are devoid of the emotional connection and the cultural linkage between the artist, the neighborhood and the community at large.
The Power of ‘Art and the Community’
Currently in major cities across America, gentrification is on the rise, leading to an Increase in rent and monumental wine bars and coffee shops. And as such with a huge influx of coffee shops usually comes an influx of artists, bohemians and many ‘new age’ couples. And while the debate continues as to why gentrification is considered either good or bad, art, in the age of gentrification has proven to assemble the community of the ‘past’, preserving their cultural history as the ‘future’ community moves in. Community-Artist-Activist, Catherine Hart , reflects on this situation as she discusses her involvement with the community in trying to preserve a library in a particular city under gentrification. Her response in the panel discussion was very sincere as she stated that ‘before she sketches anything, before any paint goes up on the wall, we engage with the community first’. Now a Jersey City native, her involvement with murals by focusing on the community first enhances the aesthetics of the mural because as her hands create the image, her ideas, inspiration and insight stems from the community. As for the library she mentioned, by following her mantra, the library was saved, received an enormous amount of funding for its preservation and was expanded to include more opportunities for the residents to enjoy the library with more spaces for study rooms, a rec space for teens, and more access to computers for the local residents. Community involvement in this regard is definitely one way to save street art and uplift a community.
Business + Art - Artist = Social Awareness?
Corporate America has also entered the art game by providing art for the communities they service, but at a cost; creating an uneasy balance between how businesses service the community and the community at large. They are able to create street art for the public sphere, but the only issue with this is that major corporations are doing that themselves with or without the artist and a lack of community involvement. This is Jordan’s mission in life, to prevent that from happening.
Art curator and businessman elite, Jordan Magid of Unconventional Group, LLC provided some valuable insight into how businesses are ‘Ikea-ing’ street art and creating art with the artist, with the hope that the community of the present will look at the same ‘art piece’ with love as the community of the future. With ‘private dollars being directed towards commissioned art work, technology is seen as a threat against the artist as production improves’. Working as an Achilles heel against the artist, murals are being created by ‘cutting corners’ via production and ‘peal and stick’ methods to create mural pieces that will soon eliminate the artist. This loss will also subtract the involvement of the community at large. Jordan is concerned about this and urges lovers and viewers of street art to always be curious about where the money is coming from for such projects.
Additionally, in his discussion, Jordan stated a phrase that drove shivers down my spine… “The ‘Ikea Model’ of production” for buildings and structures. For those unfamiliar with the European furniture manufacturer, IKEA designs and makes furniture in massive amounts and sells it at a low cost via the build it yourself’ model in their factories. Ikea’s ‘cutting corners process’ in furniture design has also lead to a series of deaths for children as well. So when Jordan compares the technological innovations of IKEA to mural art production and building design, and notes how its becoming very real; leaving the artist out of the process and others who might be involved, its very scary. As these businesses make murals ‘aplenty’, the love and compassion that the community and the artists puts into the pieces becomes null and void. The end result: an inexpensive work of art used with that ‘Ikea Magic’ that leads to an increase in rental/housing prices, all the while making the area seem ‘hip and trendy’ to the community without any love from the community at all. Jordan hopes this dark future doesn’t happen and anticipates that ‘there will be unity among the masses’.
Art + Technology = Digital Activism
Erin Ko’s take on ‘activism in the digital age’ speaks volume about her knowledge of technology and the art industry. Her experiences in combining ‘analog art-making methods with new media tools’ demonstrates her expertise in the field of Tech + Art. One interesting statement that she made in her discussion about art and technology is how they were both equivalent to activism: ‘Central to street art is activism and actually central to a lot of tech is activism’ There is definitely truth here. Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple, decided to create new forms of machinery by incorporating style with technology, thus ‘revolutionizing and ushering’ a new wave of technology for the masses, all the while making it cool. She also mentioned, the similarities and differences to how street art and tech grabs your attention, being that ‘street art is in your face, all consuming, whereas technology uses algorithms to adjust to your likes, wants and needs; so its hard to see something new’. But how can technology be a form of activism in the digital era? One example is Virtual Reality. Erin provided the following example to this, ‘As Trump was speaking at a fundraiser in Massachusetts, using your phone, you can see the ghost of Jeffery Epstein above the stadium. One of the biggest issues is that you have to download the app, but that is quickly changing’. She believes that the future of digital activism rests in the souls of ‘Hackers’ and she might be right on that idea.
As the CANVS team dedicate themselves to the preservation and glory of the mural art scene, (by traveling the globe in search of the best and brightest in mural street art), they are, in my opinion, creating a digital portfolio of the best art in the industry and the results are beginning to show. Just recently, the Canvs team partnered with Jersey City to create the Jersey City Mural Arts program. With Jersey City’s sharing access to Canvs’ growing database, Canvs’ is slowly becoming a technological force in the arts industry by disrupting the ethos of art surveying. Additionally, they also partnered with B&H to create the ‘Street Art: Behind the Lens, Photo and Walking Tour’, which takes place every year.
Canvs’ disruption in the art industry is a new type of art revolution. They know the art they capture can’t be housed in any museum, its too stuffy. These artists, who dedicate themselves to this profession can’t be caged. Their inspiration is their ecosystem, followed by their experiences, and this is what makes their work so unique. Canvs knows that as well and with the creation of their app, they have allowed the artist to let their work be viewed both nationally and internationally; traveling beyond boarders or barriers to let their artwork shine.
Canvs is growing, and after having a successful fundraiser, the people also want to see Canvs grow as well. Canvs is a new technology that, as Ana stated, ‘creates a unique user experience unlike any other’, and they want to share that technology with you so you too can see the art world, within the palm of your hand.