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Paint the Town

By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe

People who travel a lot tell me that they will often wake up and not remember what city they’re in. It makes sense—most cities have the same hotel chains near the same coffee shops near the same restaurants and stores—things can begin to feel eerily cookie cutter. For a city to differentiate itself it needs to cultivate its own look and that’s where the fun comes in.

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While some cities’ uniqueness comes from their connection to nature, or by their new and innovative architecture, others are forced to work with what they’ve got. Fortunately, what they have can usually be improved with a few cans of paint and a couple coats of imagination. With the mainstream acceptance of street artists like Shepard Fairey and Bansky, cities who had previously hosted very little street art have begun in recent years to embrace it as a reflection of their own emerging personality.

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Take my current stomping ground, Phoenix, Arizona. A decade ago, if a visitor asked me where they could find a large scale mural, or heck, even a half decent bit of graffiti, I’d really have to think. Not that they didn’t exist, but in a city this sprawling, individual expressions can easily get lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, these days there are a now a couple areas of town with a notable consolidation of street art. The Valley of the Sun is still developing its own look, but, like with Buffalo Exchange, trying things on for size and finding new ways of expressing yourself is what it’s all about.

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