It could be argued that street art defines a city. It stirs debate, prompts discussion, evokes emotions, and either polarizes or brings people together.

Montreal stands out in many respects for its street art. Walk through any district and you are sure to come across some eye-popping graphics that seem to have magically appeared on brick walls.

Historically, street art came about in the 60s in New York. Usually relegated to what was dubbed “lower forms” of art, street art was snubbed off as artwork sketched by delinquents or criminals, in other words by people with no or little ambition in life. The term “graffiti” came to life and grew to be associated with negativity; initially, graffiti was seen as a means of debasing, even scarring, a city’s look.

Flashforward to the 21st century and you get a different picture (pardon the pun). Today, you will be pleasantly surprised to find street art in places such as Rosemont, Mont-Royal, and boulevard St-Laurent. Street art is becoming so popular that people even think of it as a beautification act. The hype around street art is actually becoming so intense that Master’s and PhD students are sacrificing their entire studies to this expansive subject. Citizens around the world are taking to their spray cans and other tools to express themselves in a truly welcoming environment that is nonjudgmental and non-exclusive. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of street art is that it is performed by people who do not traditionally call themselves artists. On the contrary, these are people who breathe in art, who are inspired by it and who fight for its spread throughout their beloved city.

Festivals like Mural, which saw the light of day in 2012, attest to this growing trend. Today, Mural takes place over 10 days in June. In 2016, it attracted over 1.15 million visitors. This is just one example of the impact that street art has on everyday life; walk past a wall displaying graphic imagery is just one way to spark discussion.

So next time you amble around the city, keep an eye out for some street art. Who knows what thoughts might be triggered!