Graffiti art, or is it “street art”?

A proposal to make Joetsu the street art capital of Japan (英語の後に日本語が続きます。)

As I have argued in my post of September 23, 2021 (“The image of Joetsu, or the lack thereof …”), Joetsu is a city without image. It is possible to change this. There are ways to do so. First step is to select one or more areas that are specific for Joetsu and for which Joetsu can justifiably claim prominence.

Promote such areas or activities with the objective of creating a strong association of such activities with Joetsu. This should help in putting Joetsu on the proverbial map.

For promotion to be effective, broad-based support is needed through collaboration between the city and the community. Close interaction between the two is part of the objective.

Let us take art as one example of an area of activities. Joetsu will in the minds of most people not be associated with art. There are many small-scale activities but none with the critical mass to be helpful in strengthening Joetsu’s image.

We see examples around us of successful art manifestations. Tokamachi, Kanazawa, Nagaoka, Niigata.  However duplicating Echigo Tsumari makes little sense. Creating a modern art museum like in Nagaoka or Kanazawa is costly, time consuming and wholly unrealistic. The most difficult hurdle to overcome will be funding.

Street art, or graffiti art is often viewed as a big city thing. A lot of bad street art has given the word “graffiti” a negative connotation. However, this is ignoring the fact that there is a lot of high-quality street art. In Japan, a lot of it is concentrated in Tokyo and Yokohama.

Here lies an opportunity for Joetsu. Create an annual street art festival. It must be “annual” from the beginning to make sure no other city will try and take this initiative away. The name of Joetsu has to be associated with the festival.

The practical implementation involves inviting street artists to Joetsu for 2 to 3 weeks. Let them work in designated places throughout the city. Invite residents and tourists to visit such locations and view the results during a long weekend at the end of the project.

Organize some side events, for instance like demonstrations of street art at schools. It will in the end make Joetsu a more colourful city!

An example of one of many locations suitable for street art.

Create a jury and award a prize. Make the “Joetsu Street Art Award” a recognized standard.

Involve travel agencies and railway companies to facilitate tourist visits to Joetsu.

Most importantly, get maximum publicity from national and international press.

Joetsu is “blessed” with many locations that could be used for street art. Open lots, and the resulting two empty walls either side are ubiquitous in Joetsu, but particularly in Takada’s gangi-dori. No one will like his walls to be painted. So create semi-permanent surfaces that can be used by the artists but can be removed without damaging the walls of buildings.  

Without doubt the initiative will catch the eye of other cities and if the initiative is taken away from us, much effort will have been wasted and Joetsu is left empty-handed. The way to make an impression — and to help in creating an image for Joetsu — is to have the ambition from the beginning to make this a project with national and international recognition.

The project will create an image of Joetsu as a fun city, interested in modern art forms, worth visiting. Everyone benefits from a better image whereas tourism will provide the tangible benefits that should compensate the city for its investment.







上越市の周辺地域には、アートの成功例があります。十日町、金沢、長岡、新潟。 しかし、大地の芸術祭の二番煎じでは意味がありません。長岡や金沢のような現代美術館を作るには、コストも時間もかかり、現実的ではありません。一番の難関は資金です。











One thought on “Graffiti art, or is it “street art”?

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