A guide to the best mural festivals

 A mural from Upfest, one of the largest mural shows in the world.
A mural from Upfest, one of the largest mural shows in the world.

There’s nothing quite like a mural festival.

For members of the art community, it is a time to come together and discuss their craft, learn a thing or two from their peers and be a participant in something that is truly awe-inspiring. 

For art fans, it is an opportunity to sit back and observe the creative process, to meet the artists and discuss their work and expand their knowledge about an art form that is growing in popularity. 

A mural festival is much more than just a bunch of people getting together to paint some walls.

A mural festival is a collaborative effort by a group of like-minded individuals to beautify a community, and it is a time for a local community to marvel at the power of the paintbrush.

It is, above all, a time to revel in a process that can transform a plain wall into a work of art while simultaneously giving insight into the mind of an artist. (Not to mention an opportunity to eat some awesome food, dance the night away and attend a concert while enjoying all of the festivities scheduled around a mural festival.)

Mural festivals may be a labor of love, but they also take a lot of time to plan and generally rely on volunteers to make an event successful. So, please check the websites listed below for future festival dates since not all festivals are held annually.

Here, then, are some of the best mural festivals. 

United States

POW! WOW!

Various locations and dates around the world

POW! WOW! is a global sensation. It’s a collaborative movement that perpetuates all things art and is sponsored by individuals who happen to celebrate art by hosting, among other things, mural festivals globally. 

Pow! Wow! Is the brainchild of Jasper Wong, the founder and lead director of a non-profit organization of contemporary artists committed to community enrichment through the creation of art outreach programs, educational initiatives and engaging the community in the creation and appreciation of art.

 A mural from POW! WOW! Hawaii.
A mural from POW! WOW! Hawaii.

Centered around murals and other art, POW! WOW! has grown into a global network of artists that organizes art exhibitions and lecture series, supports schools for art and music, creative community spaces, and sponsors concerts and live art installations across the globe.

As a homegrown and independent art festival, POW! WOW! is now recognized as one of the premier and biggest well-curated mural festivals in the world. What makes it unique is that POW! WOW! showcases the cities in which they are located – whether it be Hawaii, Long Beach, Tokyo or Taipei, POW! WOW! highlights the artists, restaurants, stores, and people that make a community special.

POW! WOW! events have been held or are held in 12 cities in the U.S. and globally, including Antelope Valley, California, Austin (as part of South by Southwest activities), Guam, Hawaii, Israel, Japan, Korea, Long Beach, San Jose, Taiwan, Washington, D.C., and Worcester, Mass.

While POW! WOW! does not necessarily happen each year in all of these cities, it has run nine consecutive years in Hawaii. This year’s edition featured events on Oahu at various sites in Honolulu and Halawa.

Held this year in February, the 2019 edition was comprised of a number of events and featured the works of 83 muralists, including such noteworthy artists as Shepard Fairey, How and Nosm (identical twins Raoul and Davide Perre), ONEQ, Logan Hicks, and many more. 

The 10-day festival included a block party celebration along the Honolulu Night Market, an exhibition curated by the art group called Thickspace, artist talks, screenings, indoor soccer matches with Kicks to the Pitch and Paradise soccer club, breakdancing battles with the Endless Summer Jam, and an outdoor concert with Eminem and BAMP at Aloha Stadium. 

Seeing how loaded the 2019 schedule was, we can’t wait to learn how POW! WOW! Hawaii tops themselves in 2020 for the commemoration of their 10th anniversary.

It truly seems like a no-brainer to hit this festival, especially if you live anywhere in the Northern hemisphere. I mean, there are worse places you could be in February than Hawaii!

With so much to see and do, you (and we) really should make plans now to hit the anniversary edition of POW! WOW! in 2020, which is sure to be just as lit as this year’s festival.

Here are the months of some other PW mural events:

D.C. – May

Guam – April

Long Beach – July

Worcester – August

Art Basel

Various locations and dates (Miami – December)

Just like POW! WOW!, Art Basel is not limited to one city.

Art Basel’s world-leading shows in Basel, Hong Kong, and Miami connect collectors, galleries, and artists, and are a driving force in supporting the role galleries play in nurturing the careers of artists.

Art Basel-Miami in the Wynwood area of Miami Beach is held annually in December and is tagged as “the nexus of North America and Latin America featuring art from around the globe.”

This incredible art show focuses on art and artifacts throughout the city, including a wide variety of freshly painted street art concentrated in the Wynwood area in northwest Miami. Wynwood has perhaps the largest concentration of street art in the United States and is especially known for its commissioned works at Wynwood Walls.

 Wynwood Walls in Miami is dedicated to spreading public art to the community.
Wynwood Walls in Miami is dedicated to spreading public art to the community.

About 270 of America’s top galleries and art museums will be showcasing their talent at the annual contemporary art bonanza at Art Basel-Miami this December. 

Since launching in 2002, Art Basel has become one of North America’s premier art fairs, so expect amazing contemporary paintings, films and videos, sculptures, drawings, photography, digital art, and installations.

More than 4,000 artists have exhibited at Art Basel events since it premiered nearly 20 years ago.

CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show

West Palm Beach & Lake Worth, Late November-Early December

If you really love street art, you could literally spend your entire vacation attending the CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show in late November and then head down the road for the aforementioned Art-Basel-Miami event, which begins just three days later. (Now that’s our idea of a great vacation!)

CANVAS bills itself as the nation’s largest outdoor museum show that brings together the most innovative contemporary artists, collectors, and art influencers from around the world. 

Championing art in public places, CANVAS transforms landscapes into an interactive art experience, activating spaces and engaging with the city from concept to completion.

Colossal murals and installations punctuate the landscape, along with a complement of public and private events as a nexus between the artists and the community. Guests can pick up a map of Lake Worth mural locations at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, or take a mural walk in downtown West Palm Beach.

As of press time, there were no other details available for the 2019 event.

CRUSH WALLS

Denver, September

Later this year, CRUSH WALLS says it will “reach new heights in the mile-high city, as Denver’s foremost urban art festival will be unlike any other before it.” 

Running seven days in early September, the 2019 edition will feature daily (except Monday live painting/performances by the artists), street art tours, and a plethora of artistic workshops in such disciplines as stencil and chalk spray, screen painting, zine making and paint by numbers, which is truly geared toward less artistic individuals like yours truly.    

The CRUSH WALLS festival has been taking art to the streets from its inception, spotlighting local and international makers and acting as a catalyst for creative expression and collective gatherings.

 CRUSH WALLS is Denver’s celebration of murals and other public art.
CRUSH WALLS is Denver’s celebration of murals and other public art.

This year’s edition will once again embody ‘Where Art is Made’, embracing more than ever the groundbreaking spirit of Denver’s RiNo Art District. CRUSH WALLS 2019 will activate both east and west sides of this unique art district, curating immersive experiences, showcasing awe-inspiring talent, uniting people through creativity, and offering a standout opportunity for everyone to experience the arts.

As noted on its site, “CRUSH celebrates art, urban beautification, creativity, and culture by enriching our community through an arts festival like no other. We believe that public art leads to an improved community as a catalyst for safety, cleanliness, creativity, and conversation. Centered around empowering artists, CRUSH is committed to reflecting and diversifying the urban landscape and the unique voice of a community, bringing art out of the galleries and into the streets.”

Murals in the Market

Detroit, September

It’s baaack – and bigger and better than ever!

The Eastern Market-based street art festival, Murals in the Market, returns this September for its fourth annual run. Expanding from nine to 10 days of painting and art programming, the festival will celebrate the arts with a block party, panel discussions, cultural tours and much more.

This festival has really taken off in the three years since it started with artists painting over 120 murals created by local and international artists, and the murals in the district are said to be unrivaled by any other Detroit neighborhood.  

Other highlights include artist dinners, meet and greet opportunities, site-specific installations, and nighttime events. Organizers say “Murals in the Market is more than an international mural festival, it’s a creative platform that inspires and encourages community engagement using public art as a vessel.”

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL Music & Arts Festival

Las Vegas, September 

Life is indeed beautiful for members of the artistic community at this festival in downtown Las Vegas. Comedy, music, and mural art installations are a few of the creative processes celebrated at this annual event.

In 2018, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, in partnership wIth JUSTKIDS, assembled “a diverse roster of artists to transform downtown Las Vegas into an outdoor art gallery, full of murals, art installations and exhibits that fully immerse the festival footprint.” 

 A mural of writer Hunter S. Thompson was painted during the LIFE IS Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.
A mural of writer Hunter S. Thompson was painted during the LIFE IS Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.

Among the 79 musical acts lined up to perform at this year’s festival include Post Malone, Chance the Rapper, The Black Keys and more than 70 of the top restaurants and culinary experts showcased some of the best food on the planet.

LIFE was born in 2013 as part of the major transformation of the city as a cultural hub. During the three-day event, the best artists, music acts, thinkers, culinary talent and festival goers flood the streets of Vegas to fulfill the event’s mission to connect people, create joy and celebrate creativity.

Canada

MURAL Festival

Montreal, June 

Grab your passport,  brush up on your French and get ready for 11 days of murals, music and gastronomical delights at Montreal’s MURAL Festival. 

Since its founding in 2012, MURAL Festival’s mission has been to “democratize urban art. What began as a love letter from Montreal to the world, has grown into a unique international celebration of the arts with its own distinctive DNA.”

Their website says, “We are the meeting place of creative minds and we represent the festive and innovative soul of a booming artistic scene. Our desire is for people to discover art. This drives us every day to propel and document emerging artists from around the world while making the works of internationally renowned artists, accessible to all.

The 2019 festival featured graffiti art combined with ancient Greek sculptures, an interactive creative visual projection workshop that tapped into the imagination of participants, workshops, including a 90-minute demonstration entitled “Painting with aerosol can”, and some of Montreal’s most magnificent culinary treats.

 The artist Spidertag created this neon-based mural at the 2019 mural festival in Montreal.
The artist Spidertag created this neon-based mural at the 2019 mural festival in Montreal.

The graffiti workshop promised attendees that they would be “skool’d in the art of graffiti.” Conducted by Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, the session covered the history, the language, the rules, and the tools and techniques by AMOS, an artist with over two decades of unsanctioned experience. The workshop also featured a hands-on opportunity to spray on a legitimate wall in “the very heart of MURAL.”

A free event that is open to all ages, 15 artists were featured at the 2019 festival, including 3D graphic artist Insane 51, French artist Miss Van (aka Vanessa Alice) and PichiAvo, a Spanish graffiti artist. 

Food is just as much of an integral part of the festival as is the art that’s painted on the walls during the MURAL festival. Tastet Boulevard Saint-Laurent is the culinary event of the fest that brings together various chefs and restaurant owners who present their best dishes in a contest that is sure to delight the taste buds of any foodie.

Vancouver Mural Festival

August

Changing the way art is viewed in their city, the Vancouver Mural Festival returns in August with 10 days of painting and events leading up to the massive Mount Pleasant Street Party on the last day of the event. 

This year’s edition will feature over 25 new murals, two music stages, live art performances, four beer gardens, food trucks, markets, a new feature called Family Zone and many other activities. 

 The Create Vancouver Society perpetuates outdoor art by hosting the Vancouver Mural Festival.
The Create Vancouver Society perpetuates outdoor art by hosting the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Vancouver Mural Festival is organized by Create Vancouver Society, a Registered Non-Profit dedicated to artistic and cultural development in the Lower Mainland. Through the creation of permanent large-scale public murals, the organization provides a platform for Vancouver’s diverse art scene to contribute to the city’s cultural legacy for years to come.

The annual festival takes place in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and organizers work throughout the year with neighborhoods around the Lower Mainland to highlight the local culture and vibrant scene throughout the area.

United Kingdom

Upfest

Bristol, July

The largest street art festival in Europe is taking a break in 2019 after a 10-year run. The event, as noted on the organization’s website, will be back next year as planners have a goal of recruiting 100 volunteers by the end of the calendar year.

Upfest 2018 featured a whopping 309 artists painting over more than 15 locations during the festival’s run. The three-day event features painting on the first two days and a viewing day on the third so guests can visit with the artists to discuss their murals. 

A few of the many talents artists at the 2018 edition of Upfest were John D’oh, whose talent includes characters from The Simpsons and other pop culture icons, Philth, whose work is anything but, and Tawny, a Bristol-based illustrator and muralist.  

Past Upfests have purposefully provided a number of activities for children. Nacoa Kids Activities, Posca Doodle Walls and Creation Station are a few of the fun activities designed to explore the creative talents of younger family members.

Other interactive activities include Meet the Artists, designing sketches at The Sketch Factory, learning how to create graffiti at Miss C’s graffiti academy, and creating art using chalk at Rose Popay Chalkfest.  

Meeting of Styles

Various cities and times around the world

Where would you like to take an art-centric vacation?

London? Spain? Belgium? Thailand? All of the above?

Meeting of Styles, the largest international street art and graffiti art festival, is held at various locations around the world. The 2019 edition saw it come to Spain, Belgium and Thailand and in London and Miami, among other cities, in 2018.

Organized by an organization called EndoftheLine, the London festival is one of the more prolific, having taken place eight times since 2008. The outdoor painting spectacle has featured over 600 artists from the UK, Europe and beyond painting walls around East London. The event focuses on community engagement and enforces a positive connection with the public and the artists. 

These are just a few of the many mural festivals that provide interactive opportunities, delicious food, and other activities to spur the creative juices. Whether you plan to attend a mural festival close to home or travel to one for an art vacation, there is so much to see and do at these family-friendly events.

Enjoy!

 This mural was created at Meeting of Styles in Spain.
This mural was created at Meeting of Styles in Spain.