I previously mentioned a New York City tour that unfortunately, was just not something I could recommend. However, I cannot recommend a Graff Tour enough. Whether you are a tourist or born and raised New Yorker, you should make a point of catching one of these Graffiti Tours.
Based on my travel schedule, a Downtown Manhattan tour fit perfectly into my Friday afternoon. After registering via email, I realized I goofed and booked the wrong date. I fired off an email and within a few minutes got, “no problem, see you Friday.” When a company makes a minor slip-up that easy to resolve, you know you are in good hands.
The tour meets participants down in the East Village outside a coffee shop. Our guide was actually a retired graffiti artist. I’m honestly not sure what kind of guide I expected. But, I can tell you I thought this was brilliant. It would be like the equivalent of George Lucas giving you a tour of the original Star Wars film footage. Of course a former artist should give the tour. I mean who else could point out so much about the craft?
As we got started, we talked a little bit about graffiti and how it should be perceived as a culture or a lifestyle, not a nuisance. We also learned there are three different types of graffiti: hand style, throw up and pieces and these days art is typically by permission, illegal or on commission. By nature, graffiti comes and goes. What I saw on a tour may not be what you see when you go (hint, hint).
In my entire 10 years living in New York, I’m pretty sure I was in the East Village twice. And once was because I got lost. The idea of walking around for a couple of hours exploring a new area was a big draw. The added allure of seeing interesting, colorful art was gravy. Sadly, it seems like the graffiti that is synonymous with the East Village is disappearing as industry moves in and takes over the neighborhood. Really, it’s gentrification but I hate writing that. I think graffiti artists are moving towards Bushwick, Brooklyn, an area that still has a gritty versus corporate feel. Either way, get on one of these tours. It was well worth the time and money. In fact, it was so good, I tipped the guide (who never once mentioned tips) at the end.
Here is a gallery with outtakes of my favorite pieces from the day.