Brooklyn Street Art New York City

How to See the Most Popular NYC Street Art Destination

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of the street art culture to be wowed by NYC street art, especially the colorful walls in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Once one of NYC’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Bushwick has now become the go-to place to immerse yourself in the city’s urban art scene and to see, arguably, the world’s finest display of street artistry.

Whether it’s your first time in NYC or not, dedicate an afternoon to the streets in Brooklyn New York and explore this open-air, living, breathing, ever-evolving collection of the best street art in NYC.

NYC street art - a mural with 2 faces, one painted blue and the other pink and purple with golden braid hair.

How to See the Most Popular NYC Street Art Destination

I was excited to join the Brooklyn Unplugged Graffiti & Street Art Tour. For one, it’s always fun to be a tourist in your own city! But, even better, I love tours that teach something new. I’ve admired street art in cities like London, Paris, and Budapest. But, I’m the first to admit I know nothing about the culture of it.

Street art in NYC - A boy's face with long brown hair and blue eyes so life-like it seems like a photograph

So, I was glad when our tour guide Jeff started from the beginning. What actually is the difference between street art and graffiti? (Told you…I knew nothing.)

The best graffiti in NYC is actually much different than the best NYC street art! It turns out graffiti is made of letters, numbers, and names that are meant to catch the eye of other taggers.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

On the other hand, street art is considered Post-Graffiti. It’s art not containing letters or names and it’s meant to grab the public’s attention.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

I couldn’t help but think how much clearer this made things. How many times have you walked past buildings with graffiti and frowned, or perhaps, not even batted an eye? But, murals painted on a building’s side stop you every time, calling you to take a closer look. And let me say, these are, hands down, the best murals in NYC.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

Whether you know much about it or not, like me, street art’s beautification of buildings, outdoor spaces, and neighborhoods is easy to see. Bushwick looks vibrant and has a pulsing hipster energy to it, in large part, because of the street art.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

What’s perhaps less visible, but equally as powerful, is the transformative effect the NYC street artists’ work has had on the neighborhood’s psyche.

So, how’d all this NYC street art end up in Bushwick?

Change happens when a force wills it so. In this case, the force was Joseph Ficalora. He grew up in the then crime-ridden Bushwick neighborhood and wanted to positively change the look and feel of the area. And, in the process, free himself from the painful memories over losing both his parents in the neighborhood, too. In particular, he wanted to stop random graffiti taggers from haphazardly marking up buildings.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

In 2012, he founded The Bushwick Collective, a street art gallery in new york. (Brooklyn, New York that is!) He began by reaching out to street artists all over the world promising them a wall in exchange for their mural. Turns out, the factories and abandoned industrial spaces lining the neighborhood’s streets proved to be the perfect canvas for a public art collective.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

The Bushwick Collective displays murals from the most famous graffiti and street artists from all over the world in an evolving display of street art. Murals stay up for a year before they’re changed.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

I loved this concept, especially for this gritty now turned trendy neighborhood.

New murals and works of art change alongside the growth of the local community and from society as a whole. Doesn’t this bring to mind building or drawing in the sand at the beach only to have a fresh palette when the tide comes in? I love the idea that this NYC street art tour would be different from year to year.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

This idea of fresh starts and new beginnings is one we all can appreciate and admire, too!

And, over the last several years, the street art has stemmed off from the collective onto the surrounding neighborhood streets. Our guide, Jeff, walked with us for roughly 2 hours along a route about a mile long. We even got to see a street artist in the midst of creating a new mural!

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

The street art in NYC looks amazing, but…

…I don’t know if I have enough time!

It’s so tempting to focus on NYC’s main sights and attractions, because your NYC itinerary is short.

But,there are so many reasons to leave Manhattan! Touring the Bushwick Collective and the neighborhood’s urban art scene with Brooklyn Unplugged Tours is one such reason.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

I really loved learning about Dasic Fernandez, a Chilean street artist, whose distinctive style features a reverse gravity effect.

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

The sidewalk art of Paul Richard took my breath away simply because he creates portraits by dripping paint in such a quick way that he often goes unnoticed while he works! As someone with limited fine art skills, this almost doesn’t even compute in my brain!

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

Not to mention blocks like these covered in gorgeous street art that make it hard to continue walking!

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

As much as you should get out of Times Square and spend time in Lower Manhattan, you need to make the quick trip out to Bushwick to see for yourself the work of these NYC street artists!

Tips and Logistics

Brooklyn Unplugged offers a daily Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour in and around the Bushwick Collective. The tour is approximately 2 hours and walks along an easy route through the Bushwick neighborhood.

When the tour is finished, stick around for some New York pizza! Roberta’s serves legendary New York-style pizza and the signature slice from Artichoke Pizza is so unexpectedly delicious!

Brooklyn Street Art New York City

Bushwick is easily accessed from Manhattan by taking the “L” subway train at 14th Street to Jefferson Street in Brooklyn. Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes and bring your camera to capture the vibrantly painted walls all around.

What questions do you have about seeing street art in New York City?

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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Brooklyn Unplugged on their Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour. It was an informative tour with amazing urban art displays. As always, all opinions expressed in this article are my own.

How to See the Most Popular NYC Street Art Destination
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22 thoughts on “How to See the Most Popular NYC Street Art Destination”

  1. Jeff Stirewalt

    Hi Jackie,

    Thank you so much for this!
    It’s a wonderful article.

    All the best,
    Jeff Stirewalt
    Brooklyn Unplugged Tours

  2. Another thoughtful article, Jackie. I have to confess I didn’t know the difference between street art and graffiti either – and here I call myself cultured. I saw the mysterious appearance of a Banksy creation in Chelsea and the buzz was huge. So fun. Now I’ll have to delve into Brooklyn.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much, Carol. 🙂 Banksy is quite the street art celebrity. Hope you can hop over to Brooklyn soon.

  3. The street art scene has got a lot better since I visited New York City many many moons ago and I think I need a revisit to check all this out (as well as missing some of the top sights to see).

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      This is the best collection I’ve seen in NYC, Danik. Totally worth a trip back to NYC.

  4. Whoop Whoop! Bushwick is the best! Up until last year I lived about a 10 minute walk from the start of the street art, learning more about the culture of it here was great as I never looked into that in all the time I lived there!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Sweet, Candiss! Isn’t that always the way, though? We’re so busy traveling to far off places that local spots don’t get the love they deserve! I’m totally guilty of that, too. 🙂

  5. I love urban street art and New York is the king of this scene. I remember reading a great book called Getting Up by Craig Castle about the NY street art scene in the 1980s. I loved that it is more accepted these days.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for the book suggestion, Mike. I’ll check it out. NYC street art is definitely more visible and admired compared to decades ago.

  6. This is truly beautiful. I just love street art and these artists seem to have a lot of talent. I would like to visit this place for sure during my next visit.

  7. I love street art! I love how different it is from area to area, country to country. I’m glad more areas are embracing, rather than discouraging it.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Agreed, Nathan! It’s much more accepted now, particularly as people see how street art can truly change entire neighborhoods.

  8. Megan Jerrard

    It really is incredible how powerful street art can be in transforming a neighborhood from a place which was once dangerous and feared, to something totally uplifting which inspires and draws crowds to see. I’ve been to NYC a couple of times, though am ashamed to say I’ve not toured the Bushwick Collective – I would love the get back – the Brooklyn Unplugged Graffiti & Street Art Tour sounds really great.

    PS I had no idea the difference between street art and graffiti until now either!!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I live in NYC, Megan and I hadn’t made it to see the Bushwick Collective until doing this tour. It’s so easy in NYC to stay in one area because there’s so much to see and do! I hope you get to visit again soon and hop over to Brooklyn to enjoy the street art.

  9. What a fabulous, funky neighborhood. I’m glad that’s is more accessible/less dangerous place for people to visit. I love it when these little pockets of communities evolve over time and come into their own. The artwork here is stunning and really brings some flair to the neighborhood.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Yes, Vicki! It is such a funky neighborhood. I hope you get to visit on your next trip to NYC.

  10. Loved the post as it talks about one of my fav topics, street art. Street art is so fascinating anywhere in the world. It transports you into a world of fantasy uniquely crafted by the imagination of unknown artists. Street art is also a mirror of the place and its times. The NYC street art is an altogether different level of creativity and imagination.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I love that street art reflects the place and time, Sandy. It has the power to be such an impactful messenger.

  11. I don’t know much about street art either, but I find the post-graffiti concept fascinating. It’s hard to compare the masterful works of art in Bushwick to the old-school vandalism on the sides of boxcars and bridges. This tour looks amazing and informative!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      That’s exactly it, Heather. When you take the time to really look, you recognize the incredible art being created.

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