The street art form known as murals are present in almost every city, town and village in the United States.
With an audience that numbers in the millions and the first record of homo sapiens painting on walls dating back some 40,000 years, it’s surprising that mural painting has taken so long to shine in the spotlight.
Today, the proliferation of legal walls from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and organized festivals across the United States makes it possible to encounter thought-provoking, transformative art in the most unexpected places and just about anywhere your travels take you.
We conducted exhaustive research (poured over Pinterest pins and Instagram posts to ascertain popularity, scanned like-minded sites that aggregate fan favorites, and, of course, added our two cents) to discover famous murals in the United States that should be on your “paint” bucket list.
Within this article we also share some noteworthy mural districts where you can find multiple paintings for your viewing pleasure.
It’s always awesome when an area is noteworthy for its art scene and it’s adult beverages.
In addition to the vast beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, Asheville is home to a vast collection of both indoor and outdoor art – and did we mention an incredible selection of locally crafted beer?
Toast Tom, Gus Cutty
| 40 Collier Ave
Asheville’s South Slope is a destination in itself, especially for beer and its growing art scene. Several breweries line the hilly streets, including Burial Beer Co. where a mural of actor Tom Selleck and Sloth from The Goonies keep beer drinkers in check. This odd couple was brought to life by local muralist Gus Cutty.
A singer and talented individual, Cutty says on his About page that he hasn’t held a real job since 2012. He has, however, painted some of Asheville’s finest murals, including the one featured under the River Arts District discussed below.
Cutty has a penchant for painting Hollywood stars, including Jeff Bridges’ character Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski from the Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski.
Bower Power, Lara Nguyen
| 207 Coxe Ave
The Refinery Creative Space has gone to the birds, literally.
The large mural, the first painted by local artist and small business owner Lara Nguyen, features “two larger than life bowerbirds in their habitat in front of a sky blue background.” The artist says, “the birds are a perfect match for the building because “we are creating this bower, and we’re trying to bring the community in so they can take part in this visual arts scene.”
Art truly can be found throughout Asheville. In addition to the massive collection of art at the Biltmore Estate, there’s also the River Arts District.
The District overflows with creativity; be sure to check out the lot near White Duck Taco for an ever-evolving collection of urban art by a community of local artists. Programs like Arts 2 People, Asheville Mural Project, and Percent for Art continue to foster Asheville’s vibrant street art scene.
The home of some of the best music on the planet, delicious food and a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, Austin is a favorite town to visit and one with some pretty sweet outdoor mural art to boot.
Austin is an eclectic town, rich with creative individuals whose talent runs the gamut from food to music and, of course, various artistic styles, including mural paintings and other forms of street art.
You’re My Butter Half, John Rockwell
| 2000 E Marin Luther King Jr. Blvd
The mouth-watering “You’re My Butter Half” mural on the side of the United Way for Greater Austin building was painted by Rockwell in 2012 as part of a rebranding effort for the local charity.
Rockwell’s inspiration for the mural came from the time he spent working on a dairy farm in Wisconsin as a teenager. Rockwell said he hopes the mural exemplifies the values of the United Way and spreads positivity throughout the neighborhood.
Willie Nelson/Janis Joplin, Wiley Ross
| 407 E. 7th St.
Austin and Willie. Willie and Austin.
The two go together just like,ummmm, toast and butter.
The two really are synonymous. I mean, not many people get a street named after them, their own life-size sculpture, located outside the famous Austin City Limits studio, AND several murals painted in their honor.
The Willie Nelson/Janis Joplin mural, created by Ross in February of 2016, was originally painted as if the “favorite son” of Austin was the center of a totally awesome thermonuclear star.
In 2017, Ross toned down the sunburst and added rock legend Joplin, who was born in Port Arthur, Texas.
You can also find another mural of Willie titled Willie for President on the side of the Stag men’s clothing store at 1415 S. Congress Avenue. Now that is a presidential campaign we can support.
A Drifter’s Doodles, Sophie Roach
| 2602 Gaudalupe Street
The murals at Drifter Jack’s Hostel are a mural lover’s dream come true. Not only is the outside of the hostel painted with a mural by Sophie Roach, but the interior has been covered in murals painted by more than 20 amazing local artists!
A self-taught artist, Roach is known to create a unique visual language based on spontaneity and rhythm that is playful yet austere, extremely detailed and often vibrantly colored, which is the case with this incredible mural.
After a visit to the famed High Museum of Art, be sure to hit the great outdoors for some of the most colorful and fun murals to be found in the U.S. The Atlanta Street Art Map makes it easy to find murals in the greater Atlanta area. The map shows all street art, murals, and graffiti in seven neighborhoods with artists listed alphabetically as part of the street art walking tour guide.
Spectrum of Pride, Ricky Watts
| 10 Krog Street Northeast
One of the most colorful murals in Atlanta is located near the Krog Street Tunnel, which is known for its prevalent street art.
Painted in July 2015 for the inaugural Outer Space Mural Festival, the 65’ x 18’ mural, which is painted with aerosol spray-paint, was intended to celebrate the color spectrum, according to Watts. Three days after starting the mural, an interesting thing happened: the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and pedestrians started cheering the project or drivers honked their car horns as they passed by.
Watts has said that he thinks “it’s pretty damn cool” that the mural has become a symbol of pride throughout Old Fourth Ward and Northeast Atlanta.
Hosea Williams, Fabian Williams
| 659 Auburn Ave NE # G10
A fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark mural of civil rights leader Hosea Williams complete with hieroglyphics and a hieroglyphics key in gold foil comes alive at night and puts the spotlight on the desegregation activist.
Artist Fabian Williams (no relation) said he painted the mural to honor Hosea because there was no visual representation of Hosea in a city where he diligently fought for civil rights.
Hosea was an American civil rights leader, activist, ordained minister, businessman, philanthropist, scientist, and politician. He may be best known as a trusted member of fellow famed civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inner circle.
The Mile High City is a haven for street artists, and a plethora of murals can be found throughout the city. The city is also known for its annual mural arts festival called CRUSH Walls. While in Denver, you can take a self-guided or tour guided visit as part of Denver Graffiti Tour.
crush-piece-1, Michael Ortiz (aka ILLSON)
| 2636 Larimer Street
One of our personal faves is what has been dubbed as “Thinking Man” – although ILLSON lists it as crush-piece-1 on his website. Painted in 2016 during the CRUSH festival, ILLSON has said that the mural represents “all the colors” and encourages people to be “forward thinking.”
Power & Equality, Shephard Fairey
| 2631 Larimer Street
Right down the street from ILLSON’s work you will find “Power & Equality” by Shephard Fairey. The famous artist’s mural “depicts the black woman of the 1960s equal rights era, resplendent in her “afro” and psychedelic jewelry, the style of the day. Beautiful and proud, she raises her eyes to a future that holds the promise of equality, self-respect and empowerment.”
Fairey is a multi-talented artist who’s been “manufacturing dissent since 1989” as a social activist. Fairey founded the OBEY line of streetwear in 2001 and is also an illustrator and graphic designer. He’s best known for his Obama “Hope” poster that was released in 2008 during the former President’s campaign.
One way to determine that a city that has suffered tremendous economic stress but is now on its way to recovery is in the proliferation of its street art, which is truly the case with the Motor City.
Not only does Detroit celebrate the arts during its Murals in the Market festival but the greater metro area has a fast growing collection of mural art that indicates Detroit is on its way back.
| 25 E. Grand River at Library
Some have said this mural, painted in 2015, is a tribute to Detroit’s blue collar workers while others have claimed it to depict the struggles of the city after the departure of a once thriving manufacturing industry. That is, of course, the beauty of art; it grants license to the viewer to interpret it their own way.
Whether a tribute to workers or a portrait of economic hardship, there is no denying the power of the paint in this mural. Terrific draftsmanship, moody color and sly repetition inform this work by the young Barcelona, Spain-based Aryz (pronounced Arr-ease), who displays a depth of expression unusual for street art.
Glitz, glamour and gambling may be hallmarks of Sin City, but Vegas is fast becoming an art mecca in the Nevada desert. Its LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL Music & Arts Festival is quickly spreading the joy of mural arts to the masses.
3D Mural, Felipe Pantone
| 7th Street and Odgen Avenue
Created for LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL 2016, this piece exhibit’s Pantone’s original, contemporary style. The combination of geometric shapes and bright monochromatic colors make the shapes practically jump off the wall. Innovative and one-of-a-kind, his design is definitely a must see, especially at night since neon lights were added to the mural in 2017.
If you’re looking for creative inspiration, you need look no further than the streets of Los Angeles. Thousands of murals adorn the outer walls of buildings from the beach to the East Side, and they’re as much a part of the landscape as the Pacific Ocean and Hollywood Hills.
The artwork both reflects and colors life in Los Angeles and is a great source of pride for the city. Los Angeles is a cultural melting pot and its murals are as diverse as the people who live there.
Untitled, Christina Angelina and Fanakapan
| 4th Street and Merrick
The city’s 4th Street Arts District truly lives up to its name with more than 100 murals covering the walls and sides of buildings in the neighborhood. One of the most striking works can be found at the intersection of 4th Street and Merrick.
A moment frozen in time between two people, the mural is a portrait of gentleness and intimacy that connects the two with such great emotion that even those of us looking at it are stopped in our tracks. Painted on a corrugated metal surface, the mural reflects light and gives a feeling of a living, breathing piece of art that is in constant motion as we gaze upon it.
The mural, completed in 2015 is a collaboration piece between Christina Angelina, Venice, Los Angeles based artist renowned for her large-scale figurative murals, and Fanakapan, a London-based street artist known for creating hyper-realistic visuals of metallic objects.
Angel Wings, Colette Miller
| 8401 W 3rd St., 453 Colyton Street & other locations around the world listed via #globalangelwings on Instagram
Colette Miller created the Global Angel Wings Project in 2012 to “remind humanity that we are the angels of this Earth.”
These human-sized wings are designed to be interactive and allow people to become part of the art by posing for photos in front of the wings. The Global Angel Wings Project has truly gone global, with wings on almost every continent but they started, most appropriately, in the City of Angels.
Considered a true mecca for making mural masterpieces, the Wynwood Walls program in the Wynwood area has covered more than 80,000 square feet of Miami walls since the program was formed in 2009. Miami is also a hotbed for all things art, especially mural art.
The Wynwood Building, Jean-Francois & Ara Peterson
| 2750 N.W. 3rd Avenue
The Wynwood Building, pictured below, is in the center of the Wynwood Arts District and is a highly unique office and retail building for Miami’s flourishing creative community.
This piece is a collaboration between Jean-Francois Rauzier and Ara Peterson. Rauzier is a French artist, who lives and works in Paris. He aims to create a postmodern dream world and examines this concept through his photographic works.
Peterson is an American artist based in Providence, Rhode Island, who interlaces relief paintings and sculptures, which are rooted in wave patterns and a process-intensive work ethic.
Chrome Dog, Bik Ismo
| 3100 NW 5 Ave
Puerto Rican street artist Bik Ismo created a fantastic metallic dog mural for the Raw Project at the Jose De Diego Middle School during Art Basel Miami in November of 2014. This amazing piece took about four days and was completed entirely with spray paint, reflecting objects and scenes from the surrounding area.
As the epicenter of street art and graffiti art, an entire article could be written about murals found throughout the Big Apple’s five boroughs.
We chose, however, to highlight the area known as The Bushwick Collective, which consists of about 100 blocks with art in and around that section of Brooklyn. For the Bushwick Collective, the area of Troutman and St Nicholas has some of the best art to be found in the city. An added bonus is a new beer garden, featuring mural art, is open in Bushwick.
Freedom, Matt Adnate & Li-Hil (Photo by Jess Cremia)
| Jefferson Street in Bushwick
The Tibet collaboration mural was created to draw attention to the oppression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government.
The mural consists of two parts.
The left portion depicts a Tibetan refugee that Adnate photographed in India, with a Buddhist Mandala in the background, from a photograph shot by his wife, Jess Crema. On the right, Li-Hill chose to paint a snow leopard, an important symbol of Tibet but also a metaphor of the plight both the species and cultures face through extinction and oppression.
Hammer Boy, Banksy
| West 79th Street and Broadway
In 2013, the ever-elusive Banksy put up his Hammer Boy piece on 79th Street near Broadway at Manhattan’s Upper West Side district. The acclaimed stencil artwork is perfectly positioned near a fire hydrant and portrays a child playing a carnival strongman game. It is also undoubtedly one of the most posted photos on social media channels.
Crack is Wack, Keith Haring
| East 128th Street and 2nd St. (Harlem River Drive)
Famed graffiti artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) painted this fanciful mural in 1986 to raise awareness about the plague of drug addiction.
Painted on the northern face of the handball court wall, the mural is composed of Haring’s signature kinetic figures and abstract forms in bold outlines. Crack is a highly potent, addictive, and dangerous form of smokable cocaine whose use reached epidemic proportions in the mid- to late 1980s, and Haring’s mural cautions youth against the drug’s use.
Haring chose to give the mural the title, having witnessed his studio assistant undergo years of struggles with crack, which led to a near death experience in 1984. According to Haring, his young assistant’s struggle was an incredibly distressing experience for all the parties involved, which inspired the talented artist to create a piece that would pass across the message of the struggle.
Before the mural, Haring and his young assistant had tried a variety of techniques to rid Benny, his young studio assistance of his addiction. They had tried everything from seeking help from counselors to calling cocaine hotlines for help. Appalled by the apparent lack of support in this area, and the slow reaction from health and government agencies, Haring decided to create an anti-crack painting that would be easily seen by all.
Note: The mural is closed due to highway construction on Harlem River Drive. Check for availability starting in 2020.
Philly is frequently referred to as the “Mural Capital of the World” since it has the world’s largest outdoor art gallery, featuring thousands of murals across the city. Given its role in history as the birthplace of America, murals have only added to the rich cultural heritage in the City of Brotherly Love.
To understand the vastness of the city’s art collection, Mural Arts Philadelphia alone has produced more than 3,600 murals, an astounding and likely unprecedented representation of public art anywhere in the world.
One of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s most popular projects “A Love Letter for You,” subtitled “Brick Valentines on the Philly Skyline” or as the artist called it “Love Celebrated on the Frankford Elevated”, showcases a public art project consisting of 50 rooftop murals from 45th to 63rd Street along the Market Street corridor.
The murals, which were a collaboration between the organization, the artist ESPO (Exterior Surface Painting Outreach) aka Stephen Powers and a whole host of artists, songwriters, and writers to transform the area can be viewed from the elevated train platform of the Market-Frankford line in West Philadelphia.
Colorful Legacy, Willis “Nomo” Humphrey & Keir Johnston
| 4008 West Chestnut Street
Another project of Mural Arts Philadelphia consists of a mural and a corresponding program to raise awareness of the challenges faced by men and boys of color.
Building Brotherhood: Engaging Males of Color is an initiative that encourages dialogue amongst men and boys of color. Through weekly workshops in North and South Philadelphia, public town hall meetings and live theatre performances around the city, Building Brotherhood: Engaging Males of Color is raising much-needed awareness of the challenges faced by men and boys of color and inspire individual and community resiliency.
The mural that represents the program, which is both colorful and powerful, serves as a reminder that we are all in this journey together and that the key to our collective survival is unity among all people.
Garden of Delight, David Guinn
| 203 South Sartain Street
The acclaimed muralist is renowned for his paintings of the natural world. In this highly stylized vision of a garden – which was created with transparent colors to simulate a watercolor painting – the two trees in the center lean into each other, symbolizing an embrace.
The painted garden spills out from the space between them to join the community garden in front of the mural. Garden of Delight represents new-found freedom in Guinn’s artistic style and reflects a Van Gogh-esque quality.
The Mission District in the City by the Bay is a virtual outdoor art gallery full of vibrant murals.
Throughout the neighborhood, hundreds of walls and fences are adorned with colorful works of art featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social and political statements. Best viewed on foot, take a stroll around the district for an up-close and personal experience.
MaestraPeace, Multiple Artists
| 3543 18th St.
One of San Francisco’s largest and best-known murals, MaestraPeace serves as a visual testament to the courageous contributions of women through time and around the world.
Every day, the mural attracts the awe and cameras of tourists from around the world. It is also viewed by the San Francisco Bay Area community “as a work of artistic achievement and a symbol of the contributions of women throughout history and the world.”
MaestraPeace is highlighted in the book “Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo” and is recommended as a “must-see” in countless travel books and websites.
Painted in 1994 by a “Who’s Who” of Bay Area muralists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Perez, it was fully cleaned and restored in 2012 by the original muralists with the assistance of a new generation of female muralists.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the conversation among artists revolved around the pending death of street art. But given the multiple of murals to be found across the United States and more being painted every day, it’s safe to say that this art form is here to stay for people to enjoy for many years to come.