Miami's Wynwood Walls are known for their urban graffiti art but there is incredible street art in the surrounding streets too.
Miami's Wynwood Walls are known for their urban graffiti art but there is incredible street art in the surrounding streets too. Rae Wilson

Where you can find some of the world's best street art

Colombia

PASTED on a wall on the edge of a Bogata park dedicated to journalists is a series of posters depicting former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe using puppet strings to control one of his successors.

Under the words 'we remember', it details how more than 3.3 billion people died during Colombia's 'war' on drugs and Marxist FARC guerrillas with United States funding.

It also acknowledges the 4282 'false positives' civilians made to dress up as guerillas to collect a bounty from their execution.

It's the beginning of a street art tour in Colombia's capital city and it's a powerful reminder the country is still reeling from a 60-year civil war many feared would never end.

"The United States government gave Colombia $8 billion for us to fight the war against drugs and against guerilla groups,” we were told.

"80 per cent of that money was for military aid, weapons, bombs, vehicles, training for the army.

"80 per cent of that money went right back to the United States because they were the one who provided it all.

"Only 20 per cent of the money arrived in Colombia and that money was supposed to be for social investment but Colombia politicians were some of the most corrupt that exist around the world.

Street art in Bogota, Colombia.
Street art in Bogota, Colombia. Rae Wilson

"So they used that money not only to do social investment but to give benefits to army soldiers for killing guerilla rebels.

"So between 2001 and 2012, a lot of soldiers were very happy about all this money coming from the United States.

"Soldiers were getting paid as much as US$1200 for each guerilla rebel killed during combat; high-ranking officers were getting paid per month based on the amount of casualties they were reporting.

"During these times, some people in the army, they were going through a body count fever, happy killing people and getting money from it.

"Eventually when they run out of guerilla rebels to kill, they started killing civilians.

Street art in Bogota, Colombia.
Street art in Bogota, Colombia. Rae Wilson

"People from the army were driving around impoverished areas of the country, marginal areas of the city, telling lies to people: 'Hey guys we have good news for all of you, remember all the economic struggle you were going through, well it's about to be over, we're here to offer you jobs that pay really good money, they happen to be right across the country, you're going to be far away from your families but making enough money to support them. The bad news is that you have to make the decision now, take it or leave it, a one-time opportunity'.

"Many people, desperate about their economic situation, didn't think twice about it. They just jumped on the trucks of the army right away.

"As soon as they had those trucks loaded with people, they just drove them to the middle of nowhere, dressed them as guerilla rebels and executed them in order to collect those money rewards.”

That was between 2001 and 2012, which means that practice stopped just seven years ago.

And it only stopped because the United States government were not seeing results from their investment and cut off the money supply.

"One of the main goals they had in mind was to decrease the production of cocaine here in Colombia so the price would rise in the United States, none of that happened,” our tour leader told us.

"Now we're still the number one producer of the coca leaf around the world.

Street art in Bogota, Colombia.
Street art in Bogota, Colombia. Rae Wilson

"On this poster, the positive is a guerilla killed during combat, a false positive is a civilian portrayed as a guerilla rebel executed in order to claim a money reward.

"Many former army officers have since confessed ... and now that figure could be as high as 10,000 to 12,000 victims.

"The poster depicts the big puppet master, he was in charge of the country during those times.

"Presidents could be in power for four years. Because of this guy (Uribe), when he got to be the president, he liked it so much he modified the constitution in order to be re-elected himself for another presidential term.

"After those eight years, he felt eight years wasn't enough and he tried to modify the constitution again but that time he was stopped by the constitutional court.

"His successor Juan Manuel Santos, the guy who signed the peace agreement with the FARC, he got eight years and then signed another law that bans re-election all over again so we are back to four years.”

Colombia elected new president Iván Duque last year. He too is believed to be a protege of Álvaro Uribe, saying in a radio interview "I am not a puppet and Uribe is not a puppeteer”.

The people pasting these puppeteer posters through the Colombian capital beg to differ.

Street art has long been a form of political expression, from sending a message to a critique or satire.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

Throughout the streets of Bogata, there are many forms of urban art from graffiti writing (often known as tagging) to posters and paste-ups to freestyle aerosol works and murals with paintbrushes.

They tell stories of oppression on the streets, the country's drug history, child labour but also use brilliant colours to catch people's attention from cartoon-like scenes and characters to kaleidoscopes.

Street art in Bogota, Colombia.
Street art in Bogota, Colombia. Rae Wilson

New York

WALKING through the streets of Bushwick and Williamstown is a treat for the eyes.

So many impressive posters, murals, freestyle aerosol as well as pieces of art you might overlook without a knowledgeable guide pointing them out and explaining their background.

There's even a few Banksys about the place but the stories of some of the lesser known artists are just as gripping.

My recommendation is to hook up with Freedom Tripodi (Insta: freedom_streetartwalk) for a graffiti art tour through Brooklyn Unplugged.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

He's been at the gig a while now and knows all the artists. Stumbling upon a new piece of art is fun to watch; he gets excited and can usually immediately identify the artist.

He can also give you the lowdown on the hidden gems and titbits to explore the area after the walking tour ends.

There is now an outdoor street gallery known as the Bushwick Collective. It begins on Jefferson Strett and continues on Troutman Street towards Saint Nicholas Avenue.

Neighbourhood personality Joseph Ficalora founded the urban art precinct in 2012 to beautify gritty industrial streets.

"In 1991, Joseph's father, Ignazio Ficalora, was killed on the way home from the family steel fabrication business,” the tour tells us.

"He was murdered for a few dollars in his wallet and the gold chain he had around his neck. At the time Joseph was only twelve years old.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

"A few years ago, in 2011, Joseph experienced another tragedy, the loss of his mother, who battled a brain tumour for four years.

But the area has become increasingly popular in recent years and the almost 100 blocks in and around the Bushwick Collective area can keep you occupied for days.

It can get pretty busy so if you plan to wander around yourself to check out the art, plan for a weekday or earlier in the day.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

And make sure you are prepared with sunscreen, hats, water and an umbrella to make the most of it.

Miami

THIS city isn't all hot bods on stunning beaches.

Move a block from Miami's main beach and you find gorgeous art deco buildings.

Head back across the Biscayne Bay and you'll find a cool Latin quarter and a funky urban art scene.

The main feature is the Wynwood Walls and Wynwood Doors, a warehouse district transformed into giant canvases since 2009.

But the entire district has now become a hive of activity with graffiti artists creating a museum of the streets - depicting different historical eras, political views and beliefs.

I'm told more than 50 artists from more than a dozen countries have covered more than 7000 sq m of wall since it began.

There are formalised tours but you'll also find various Airbnb experiences to fit with your schedule.

I spent about three hours with Daphne seeing all the incredible urban art in the less crowded streets surrounding the Wynwood Walls before reaching them, and the thousands of tourists.

She is a Brazilian who began travelling the world 14 years ago as a fashion model and actress.

Miami's Wynwood Walls are known for their urban graffiti art but there is incredible street art in the surrounding streets too.
Miami's Wynwood Walls are known for their urban graffiti art but there is incredible street art in the surrounding streets too. Rae Wilson

Full of information about the artists and pieces on show, this down-to-earth chick is also happy to take photos with you in the shot - added bonus.

And as she's always on the lookout for new and trendy spots, she has plenty of advice on up and coming bars and restaurants.

She dropped me off at The Wynwood Yard where I had an incredible selection of great food and went for a seven-cheese macaroni cheese. The real stuff Americans eat, not the out of the box stuff we eat here. Amazing.

TYPES OF STREET ART

STREET art comes in many forms - from knit bombing to stencilling to walls adorned with paintings fit for a contemporary art museum. 

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

Graffiti can be broken down into these categories - writing (often known as tagging), painted murals and freestyle aerosols, and posters, paste-ups and stencils.

Tags

Probably the most common form worldwide and likely the most despised by the every day person.

Written on any surface, often defacing artworks much more pleasing to the eye, tags are usually the name of a person or crew.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

Usually ego driven, taggers prefer public spaces to get as much exposure as possible.

Murals

Our Colombian tour guide says muralism dates back to 20th century Mexico and refers more to the tools used than the type of painting.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

He says murals are completed using paintbrushes rather than aerosol cans.

Generally these portray a scene, telling a story or expressing an artists' take on an issue.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

Posters/Paste-ups

Wheat paste is used to fix posters to public surfaces after they have been created in private.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson

Poster art can have layers, cutouts or collages. They tend to have a shorter shelflife than other forms of graffiti.

Judith Supine and Swoon are well-known Brooklyn paste-up artists.

Street art in Bushwick, New York.
Street art in Bushwick, New York. Rae Wilson


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