It’s one thing to consume street art passively as you walk down city streets or take a walking tour. However, it’s another thing entirely to experience it through a street art festival. Seeing the live creation of murals is an education on the technique, intent and community that has made urban art such a global phenomenon.
This compilation of 18 global mural festivals celebrates the quality and diversity of street art. Not all great street art cities host festivals. But, these cities have chosen to invest in the effort because they all value the pride that urban art brings to their communities. Each of these street art festivals have made the cut because they’ve produced events over multiple years–and also because they intend to continue into the future.
Aside from that though, you’ll find a great deal of diversity within these festivals. Some are in small rural towns, others are in large cities. Some celebrate local artists and native communities and others go big with world renowned artists like Shepard Fairey and Roa.
Read on and make note of your favorites, so that you can book a ticket to a mural festival sometime in the next year.
Street Art Festivals in the Americas
Crush Walls: Denver Colorado, USA
The Crush Walls street art festival in Denver is livening up the RiNo neighborhood, one mural at a time. They’re on a mission is to catalyze creative expression while transforming an area of Denver that is in transition from a gritty warehouse district to an arty residential neighborhood.
The 2019 festival featured 70 local and 16 national/international artists. They also feature a pre-festival concert and a blow-the doors-off block party to close the event.
Crush Walls usually occurs the second week of September. Find more event information here.
Bushwick Collective Block Party: NYC New York, USA
There is street art all over New York, but you’ll find a proliferation of it in Brooklyn. They celebrate it with Bushwick’s annual block party– a massive one day party full of street art, music and food. The Bushwick Collective was founded by Joe Ficalora. He was motivated to transform what had been desolate and crime-ridden blocks into a neighborhood that Brooklyn could be proud of.
The Block Party will have as many as 40 artists working on murals and graffiti. Most of the works are painted by local artists, although you’ll also see some imports on the walls. The block party itself inaugurates the murals and then the party gets going with music and food over the weekend.
The Block Party usually occurs on the first Saturday in June. More event information here.
Pow!Wow!: Honolulu Hawaii, USA
POW!WOW!’s ethic is centered around community beautification, arts education and bringing people together. They use a mix of both local and outside talent for the event, which also includes curated exhibitions, artists talks and events for kids. POW!WOW! has started a creative community center called Lana Lane, which functions as a year round artist collective.
Their event map shows 122 pieces from such well known artists as Vhils and Tristan Eaton. Check out my article where you can take a visual tour and get a map for the Kaka’ako murals.
POW! WOW! Honolulu 2020 occured February 7th-16th. Find more event information here.
POW!WOW!: Long Beach California, USA
POW!WOW! in Long Beach has a mission to bring happiness and color to everyday life in their community. For the past three years, they’ve been doing just that with this mural festival in Southern California. They now have 90 murals spread around Long Beach.
The artist mix for the festival is about 50/50 local to external and they want to create an atmosphere where the artists learn from one another. They get local community involvement by hosting events in small local venues and sourcing locally made merch. They even worked with a local ice cream shop to create a limited edition POW!WOW! ice cream, which was made from a dangerously irresistible mix of Rice Crispy bits and marshmallow fluff.
“POW!WOW! Long Beach is not only a mural festival but a learning experience for artists, volunteers, and community.”Local artist Jason Keam
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2020 will occur in late July. Find more event information here.
Wynwood Walls at Art Basel: Miami Florida, USA
The Wynwood Walls arts district was started by real estate developer Tony Goldman, as an outdoor museum of international street art. His own awareness of street art was influenced by Keith Haring, who sprayed up Goldman’s property on the Lower East Side of New York. When Goldman set his gaze upon Miami, he saw great potential in the Wynwood warehouse district.
Every year, just before Art Basel takes over Miami, Goldman Properties brings in artists to paint new walls and do a refresh on old walls. So, the mural work precedes Art Basel, but Wynwood also hosts events with music, food and new age art installations during Art Basel.
Art Basel 2019 starts Friday 12/6 and the 2020 event begins on Friday 12/2. Expect the murals to be in the works during the week proceeding. More info available at Wynwood Walls.
Wide Open Walls: Sacramento California, USA
Wide Open Walls is working on making art part of daily life in Sacramento. They are doing that by reaching a wide audience with their outdoor art gallery. They engage locally and have Sacramento artists on their board and steering committee.
The festival invites a 50/50 of California and external artists. There is a strong California theme throughout the murals, which have recently included a tribute to workers who built the transcontinental railroad, California’s bear symbol and Johnny Cash (whose pioneering Folsom Prison concerts occurred near Sacramento).
Wide Open Walls 2020 will occur on Sept 10-24. More event information here.
“In Sacramento we do not build walls to keep people out, we paint walls to bring people in.”Mayor Darrell Steinberg
Eureka Street Art Festival, Eureka California, USA
Eureka California is an interesting place for street art. The area is more known for huge redwood trees and Victorian architecture. But Eureka also has a large resident artist population. The city partners with local businesses to celebrate that culture by heavily featuring their local artists at the festival. But they also bring in external talent and mix in food and craft vendors to make the festival a destination event.
The 2020 street art festival will happen August 10-15. Get event information here.
“The community response and engagement that the Eureka Street Art Festival has created is truly beyond words…Eric Karbeling, Miami-based artist
Bright Walls: Jackson Michigan, USA
Bright Walls founder Clay McAndrews has passion for street art that was sparked by his travels. After exploring it in places like Miami and Boston, he wanted to bring quality wall art to his own small town. Like Eureka, Jackson is small, with a compact downtown and a down-home ethic.
The mural festival is a carefully curated event that brings in world-class talent to enliven Jackson’s walls, one block at a time. It’s a community effort with local businesses providing sponsorship of food, equipment and of course, the blank walls. Bright Walls intends to provide festival goers with a high quality of art in an intimate and walkable setting.
The festival will happen in September of 2020 (dates TBD). Get event information here.
Murals in the Market: Detroit Michigan, USA
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. Five years in, they have created over 100 murals in the Eastern Market and curated even more around Detroit.
The festival brings in over 50 local and international artists to paint. Recent work has ranged from striking photo-realistic portraits, Dia de los Muertos themes and eye popping abstracts. The event also hosts artist meet and greets, print shows, panel discussions and a block party.
Murals in the Market usually runs the third week of September. Get event information here.
Mural Festival: Montreal Quebec Province, Canada
Montreal’s festival was inspired in part by the celebration of urban art happening on the Wynwood Walls. Montreal started its own festival in 2013. There was already a street art and graffiti scene in Montreal, but the festival has kicked it up to a much higher level.
For the large murals, they have a 50/50 mix of Canadian to international artists. They focus primarily on Canadian artists for the smaller venues, pop-ups and temporary art installations.
The festival secured the support of the business improvement district for the St. Lawrence Boulevard. This has ensured that they can close the street for the full 11 day festival. The business support and street closure has made it possible for them to program additional events, such as music and art installations, attracting over 415,000 visits to the festival.
Mural Festival Montreal will run June 11-21 2020. More event information here.
Vancouver Mural Festival: Vancouver British Columbia Canada
Vancouver Mural Festival’s mission is to create experiences that connect art with people. Over the past four years, they’ve added over 150 murals to the city and produced Western Canada’s largest free, annual celebration of public art. Diversity and inclusiveness are key factors in the mural festival’s ethic.
Most of the participating artists are local, with a diverse range of experience in the visual arts (such as painting, animation and graphic design). The festival is also mindful to involve artists from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
About 30% of the murals are done by international artists such as Fintan Magee (pictured above). He’s an Australian artist and a strong figure in Melbourne’s street art scene. In addition to murals, the festival includes a massive Street Party which transforms 15 streets and alleys into an open-air celebration with music, an art markets, beer gardens, and food trucks, graffiti and skateboard jam, and dance battles.
The 2020 festival will happen July 30- August 8. Find more event information here.
Public art is kind of like a gauge for how healthy a city is from a creative culture standpoint…Jeff Hamada, Vancouver guest curator/ founder of Booooooom.com
Street Art Festivals in Europe
Upfest: Bristol England
Bristol is Banksy’s stomping grounds and the first city in Europe to truly embrace street art. The Upfest street art festival has been going since 2008. They took a break in 2019 to regroup, but they are back on for 2020 with a redesigned event.
Upfest is a truly democratic festival and they invite over 250 artists, most of them local, to participate. Large murals by renowned artists will be painted in the Bedminster neighborhood during the week leading up to the festival. Smaller works will be created during the festival in Greville Smyth Park. The park will also host music, food booths and a pop-up gallery selling artist prints.
Upfest 2020 will run May 30th-June 1st. Find more event information here.
Nuart Festival: Aberdeen Scotland
Nuart Aberdeen not only provides a platform for international street artists but also local and national artists who wish to showcase their work. They do this through a series of site-specific paintings, installations, interventions and exhibitions at multiple locations across the city.
Each year they bring in 12 renowned artists (like Smug, Ben Eine and Vhils) who produce fresh murals in collaboration with local artists. The festival hosts also cook up some engaging activities for the local residents. One year, it was a print shop that allowed people to make their own t-shirts. And another year, they gave a bunch of grannies a crash course in graffiti and stencil work.
Aberdeen has found that the festival brings on the civic pride like no other event has been able to do. Even if you miss the festival, you can still see the art by following this Nuart mural trail.
Nuart Aberdeen is on for April 2020 (exact dates TBD). Get more event information here.
Nuart Festival: Stavanger Norway
To hikers, western Norway is known for it’s stunning scenery. But for street art nuts, it’s all about the Nuart Festival. It was established as a public art festival in 2001 and since 2005, they’ve narrowed their focus specifically to street art.
Nuart likes to challenge artists to operate outside of traditional norms. They curate a mix of works from both established and up and coming artists. Not content to simply spray buildings, in 2019 the 1UP crew from Berlin painted the side of a shipwreck and Dr D installed mock advertising in bus shelters.
Nuart Stavanger usually runs during the first week of September. More event information here.
Stencilibility: Tartu Estonia
Stencilibility was established in 2010 and they have been organizing summer mural events ever since. Their manifesto states that “public space belongs to everyone who uses it” and “…if you don’t like it, improve it”. This is an organization not afraid to take on bizarre projects and edgy subject matter.
Stencilibity will happen in 2020 June 8-14. More event information here.
Street Art Fest: Grenoble, France
The Grenoble Alps street art fest began in 2015 with 30 artists and they now have over 180 works up. The most recent festival featured 38 artists painting 10 huge walls and over 70 other surfaces. They are now curating artists from outside of France for the festival.
The month-long festival has busted out by expanding both their physical space and their media. Grenoble now includes digital street art, exhibitions and a movie festival. The festival is also busting out of central Grenoble to include the nearby towns of Fontaine, Saint-Martin-d’Hères Le-Pont-de-Claix and Echirolles.
Grenoble Alps Street Fest usually starts on a Sunday in the first week of June and runs all month. More event information here.
Mural Festivals in Asia Pacific
Wall to Wall Festival: Benalla Victoria, Australia
Like Eureka, Benalla in Victoria Australia is a small town with big street art ambitions. Festival founder Shawn Hassock is mad for street art. So much so, that he founded Juddy Roller, a street art gallery and curator in Melbourne. Hassock is from Benalla and he had the genius idea to bring murals to his home town.
The Wall to Wall festival hosts about 20 artists every year. Sometimes work on a mix of new surfaces and a refresh of existing walls. In addition to the spray, they host a variety of events over the weekend including: workshops, guided street art tours, cinema and after dark projections.
The full Who’s Who of Australian street art gods have painted in Benalla. This includes Adnate, Rone, Guido van Helten, Fintan Magee and Kaff-eine. These same four artists also participated in the stunning Silo Art Trail, which celebrates rural life with grain silo portraits in Western Victoria.
Wall to Wall occurs every year in the first weekend of April. Find more event information here.
HKWalls: Hong Kong, China
HKWalls isn’t going for any specific aesthetic. They just want to share artists whom they like and whose work they appreciate. As a result, they end up with quite a wide variety of artists and artwork.
HKWalls is a chance to see graffiti, street and mural artists with a strong insight into Asian’s street art scene. Asian artists are rarely represented in other cities and HKWalls makes a point of having 1/3 of their artists from Hong Kong itself and another 1/3 from other regions in Asia.
HKWalls will be at it again in 2020 on March 14-22. Find more event information here.
Urban Art Festivals That Go Beyond Murals
The following aren’t strictly street art festivals. They are more urban or performance art festivals, which heavily feature murals. But they are worth noting because street art happens in cities an inclusive creative culture. In cities like New York and Bogota, graffiti grew out of urban hip hop culture. In Chicago, the south loop murals live side by side with Picasso’s public sculptures. In San Francisco, the murals reflect a Latino culture celebrated with an annual Carnavale event. Melbourne, Tartu and Reykjavik all have street art scenes that live side by side with their UNESCO City of Literature programming.
There is a symbiosis between these different art forms, and street art is a powerful stimulant. Check out the following festivals and find one that reflects your own complex relationship with art and performance.
- Stockholm Street Festival, Stockholm, Sweden: Features jugglers, clowns, acrobats, comedians and fresh street art. Usually in early August.
- Bloop Festival, Ibiza, Spain: “Proactive” arty festival featuring interactive installations, open air art, virtual reality and large mural installations.
- Life is Beautiful Festival, Las Vegas Nevada, USA: Mostly a music festival but with a strong side dish of culinary arts, comedy and street art.
- Inspire Festival, Moncton New Brunswick, Canada: Meant to “activate the imagination” with live art, interactive installations, street performance and fresh murals.
- Meeting of Styles, Rotating global locations: MOS pops up all over the globe with smaller scale spray events that include DJs, break dancing, Hip Hop and food vendors.
Explore More Street Art!
Study great street art in other cities by checking out my guides to:
Top Street Art Cities in the World | Books About Street Art|Street Art Festivals | Buenos Aires | Bogota | San Diego | San Francisco | Los Angeles |Nashville | Chicago | New York | Havana | London | Reykjavik | Belfast | Bristol | Berlin | Paris | Estonia | Rural Australia | Melbourne | Honolulu | Salt Lake City
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