Welcome to The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti Course 2016

July 11th 2016 – July 22nd 2016 – LIU Post, NY

This is a NY State accredited college level course created by artist and professor Ryan Seslow for the Art Department at LIU Post. Students earn 3 credits towards art history and studio art elective degree requirements.

The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti is one of the first accredited college level courses in the USA where students earn 3 credits in this specific subject while experiencing and learning hands on studio practice and techniques.

This is an active course blog post that will expand, build & archive in real time as the course progresses each day. Dialog will be expressed by the students, guest artists and visitors via the comments section below.

Guest Artists & Lecturers for this term:

Leon Reid IV


General Howe

H.Veng Smith

Gabe Schoenberg / Graff Tours

CAKE aka Jennifer Caviola

Yoav Litvin

Caroline Caldwell

RJ Rushmore

John Fekner

Ryan Seslow



Day #1 – 7/11/16

The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti starts off with a class overview, learning outcomes and expectations. A historical presentation on early Graffiti in NYC begins with who the early writers were and how styles developed and evolved. Understanding and identifying the difference between legal and illegal graffiti pieces will be explored. A screening and discussion of Style Wars sets a great tone and leaves students with much to think about, especially a re-definition of what Graffiti is and how it can be defined. Style Wars is an essential part of the re-definition process of understanding graffiti. Will you take the time to check it out?


Day #2 – 7/12/16

The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti continues with a lecture on the earliest forms of tagging and letter forms. Writing on the wall dates back to pre-historic time. We discussed the human need to record and interpret the world and how it has transcended time. A tag and tagging development workshop with graffiti alphabets and markers will take place. We explore various hand-styles, bubble letters and creating a graffiti name. The class examined: “How do graffiti writers create their names?”

VENG aka Herb Smith will present his work and rock an aerosol demonstration. Herb Smith will give a great presentation about his current work and his evolution as an artist. Starting out as a traditional graffiti artist while simultaneously maintaining a career as a fine artist. Heavily influenced by Dutch masters, Herb’s unique style ranges from large scale 40 foot collaborative murals to smaller scale oil paintings of realistic birds, landscapes and portraits.

Blackbooks are introduced and discussed. The students  are encouraged to create their own and contribute drawings to each others books. Several of the guest artists will also participate. Online resources will be introduced, discussed and explored featuring Art Crimes & @149th St. After Day #1’s Style Wars screening, we discussed the importance of Henry Chalfant & Tony Silver’s classic documentary as well as Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s book “Subway Art” aka the Graffiti Bible.


Day #3 – 7/13/16

The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti started with a continued tagging workshop in hand style graffiti and solidifying a tag name. The class explored the tools of the trade, working with various sizes of markers. Students learn that aerosol based spray paint can control is not as easy as it may seem to be. Developing spray can control takes many years of practice and dedication. We found out first hand in our first experience. Students will collaborate on a group piece that displays their new identities.

Guest artist presentations and demonstrations working with wheat paste and aerosol paint from CAKE & SEBS.

Identifying wheat pastes and the paste up process. Beginning with a presentation and series of definitions, CAKE aka Jennifer Caviola will present her work. CAKE will also lead the class in a demonstration on her paste up technique. Using works generated specifically for the class students experiment and collaborate on a group installation with CAKE.

SEBS will share both aerosol tagging styles as well as building larger letter forms, fill ins and outlining. Students continue to practice and add contributions to a collaborative wall over the duration of the course.

Day #4 – 7/14/16

The class meets in New York City for a guided walking street art & graffiti tour of downtown with NYC Graff Tours aka Gabe Schoenberg. SOHO, Nolita, & Little Italy will be covered. Guest Artist Leon Reid IV will join us to discuss his site specific installation in Little Italy at the L.I.S.A Project 


Day #5 – 7/15/16

Guest Artists Caroline Caldwell and RJ Rushmore will be presenting their work and discussions of the activation and disruption of public space.

Caroline Caldwell – Guest Artist – Caroline is a 23 year old artist and writer based in New York City. She is a contributing writer for the street art blog Vandalog.
Caroline’s artwork deals with themes of home, grief, and rebellion. Her work questions ideas of property, both through surreal architectural illustrations, and interventions in public space. Caroline finds inspiration in hackers, subverters and culture jammers who use art as a tool of empowerment.

RJ Rushmore is the author of VIRAL ART Creator of Vandalog.com and Co-Curator and Co-Creator of ENCRYPTED FILLS – his book Viral Art is emphasized during the course and used as a main resource of investigation. Not only is the book filled with introductions to many artists and their practice, it is a great insight into how the internet has forever changed how artists communicate across the globe. The book is free to read online or download. Each student is required to obtain a copy.


Image ©johnfekner

Image ©johnfekner

Day # 6 – 7/18/16

A Stencil Art workshop will be conducted by Ryan Seslow. The class will generate stencil art works and collaborate on a series of new works for the growing class archive. The class archive consists of over 100 student stencil art works that dates back to when the class was started in 2010. The archive resides in the university print-making studio and is available to the LIU Post community and beyond (by appointment.) The class continues exploring street art and street art techniques by identifying legal and illegal versus permission and commission based works. Public murals were discussed. We spoke about and explored the important stencil works of John Fekner and his 2005 exhibition Tawkin’ New York City Walls. We moved on to the works of artist Chris Stain and presented the free public stencil history and technique book he organized for his previous talks at LIU.


Day #7 – 7/19/16 

General Howe will present his work and explore an in class series of discussions with the students.

The General explores the impact of war in the United States in the beginning of the 21st century. His notable street art project, the battle of Brooklyn, has been published in The Huffington Post and Street Art New York. He took to the web to produce SUPER Election News, a satirical news blog juxtaposing the 2012 election and the Batman Mythology. In 2013 General Howe began his Animated Disasters of War followed by his first solo installation, Nursery, at Kianga Ellis Projects in New York. General Howe lives in Brooklyn – http://generalhowe.com


Day #8 – 7/20/16 

Yoav Litvin Guest Presentation

The History & Emergence of Street Art & Graffiti continued with understanding various Street Art styles, techniques, and motivations. Street art awareness via photography and the Outdoor Gallery book – author & photographer Yoav Litvin gave a great presentation on his work and lead the class discussion. From the streets of NYC to the many locations Yoav documented in South America, students received a clear vision of how commissioned works of street art function in contrast to non-commissioned works both in and out of the USA.



Day #9 – 7/21/16 – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Compare and Contrast

Day #10 – 7/22/16 – Final Class

John Fekner Skype Presentation

In the 70s, John Fekner was ‘anonymously known’ for over three hundred environmental/conceptual works consisting of dates, words, and symbols spray painted throughout the five boroughs of New York. The “Warning Signs” project focused on pointing out hazardous conditions that dominated New York City and its environs in the 1970s. In the spring of 1977, Fekner created word-signs using hand cut cardboard stencils and spray paint. He began a relentless crusade concerned with social and environmental issues. Starting in the industrial streets of Queens and the East River bridges, and later on to the South Bronx in 1980, his messages were seen in areas that were desperately in need of construction, demolition or reconstruction. By labeling structures and emphasizing problems, the objective was to call attention to the accumulated squalor by urging city officials, agencies and local communities to be more responsible and take action.


John sent this compiled list of insights via e-mail ::

John Fekner – 

Some thoughts to ponder along the artistic path of life.

16. Creativity is a stream that runs alongside your life. Instinctively, there’s a time & place for the artist to jump in whether it’s calm, fluid or raging.

15. It is to an artist’s advantage to challenge oneself by taking risks – not foolish ones, to discover solutions in unique and unexpected ways.

14. Artists must learn to be fulfilled with an audience of one: to accept the silence of self. Once that stage is realized, vision is limitless.

13. When hope and expectation turn to disappointment, take a break from the actual work and simply refocus your creativity on centering oneself.

12. Good Vibrations: bells, teas, chimes, chanting, humming, spices, herbs and perhaps a pet. It’s all therapeutic for your mind, body and soul.

11. Stay home on either a Friday or a Saturday night. Have fun and make art. Be different.

10. Things that should change; don’t. Things that shouldn’t change; do. Change is inevitable, so be open and accepting, taking a balanced approach on the path of life.

9. Always have some hidden or quirky interest that you enjoy ‘alone’. Just you. Something that someone else might consider ‘odd’. There’s nothing wrong with ‘odd’. It is part of the journey of becoming an artist who is curious to discover new things in order to becoming complete with one self.

8. Read autobiographies of people from various fields. It might provide some advice and insight as to how they survived when they were younger and not yet established in their life’s work.

 7. Identify and participate within some other community completely separate from your home and work environment.

6. Beliefs are good. Believe in yourself, your artwork, your family, your friends and some mightier power of your choice.

5. Travel engenders new scenarios in which one meets new people and their cultures providing a learning environment of acceptability, understanding and embracing diversity throughout the world.

4. When a brilliant idea strikes you in the middle of the night or suddenly wakes you up – Never turn on the light. Keep a marker and white paper next to your bed. Write large in the dark and you will capture the true essence of the dream-thought. If you turn on the light, it prevents you from holding the magic; it disappears and you lose the essence of the fleeting thought and you wind up altering the initial idea.

3. Life is constantly changing- don’t be extreme or too rigid in your thinking, your technical process and creative art making. Allowing things to be open and fluid will allow for development, perspective and adaptability.

2. ‘Remembrance of Things Past’  Not to dwell or live in the past, but it is always important to remember the earlier stages of your growth and childhood. If you go back and visit your hometown during the daytime, it will mostly likely be a noisy and chaotic experience. But if you revisit at dawn, you might get a better sense of things really haven’t changed that much; the stillness and quiet in the early morning make it easy to rekindle memories and spark personal creativity.

1. Define your own alternate path of life and commit to it as an artist not as a ‘careerist’. The concept of ‘a career’ has all the social conditioning labels of being measured as a ‘success’ by society’s rules stamped all over it.

Growing Door

A collaborative Door Installation by many past guest artists, students and visitors. 2010 – Present.

The final class assessment, learning outcomes and discussion. Students presented and discussed the works generated in the class. We exchanged how the information learned during the class will influence each student forward? How will you apply the information learned through out the course?


A nice piece of rare history was created at the end of the course as all of the guest artists who came in to lecture added their mark to one single piece of bristol paper. Some added their traditional styles & tags while others signed their names in a unique new way that may only be seen this one time. Many many thanks to the guest artists and lecturers who gave their time and experience to this course, it could not function with out you! Gratitude and Respect!

Leon Reid IV – SEBS – General Howe – H.Veng Smith – CAKE aka Jennifer Caviola – Yoav Litvin – 

Caroline Caldwell – RJ Rushmore – John Fekner – Ryan Seslow

LIU Campus Library Book Resources

1. Scrawl : Dirty Graphics & Strange Characters, by Blackshaw, Ric., Farrelly, Liz. London : Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1999.

2. Street Art, by Schwartzman, Allan. Garden City, N.Y. : Dial Press, 1985.

3. Subway Art : 25th Anniversary edition, by Cooper, Martha., Chalfant, Henry. San Francisco, CA : Chronicle Books, 2009.

4. Trespass : A History of Un-Commissioned Urban Art, by McCormick, Carlo, Seno, Ethel, Schiller, Marc., Schiller, Sara, Banksy, Pasternak, Anne, 1964, Serra, J. Tony. Köln : Taschen, c2010.

5. Getting up : Subway Graffiti in New York, by Castleman, Craig, Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1982.

6. The History of American Graffiti, by Gastman, Roger , Neelon Caleb, Harper Design , April 5, 2011.

7. Viral Art, by RJ Rushmore, 2013 – download here- http://viralart.vandalog.com

8. Outdoor Gallery, by Litvin, Yoav, Ginko press, 2014.

LIU Campus Library IMA Video Resources

1. Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy,  Oscilloscope Laboratories (Firm) [New York] : Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2010.

2. Next: A Primer on Urban Painting by Aravena, Pablo, by New Video, 2010.

3. Style Wars by Silver, Tony, Chalfant, Henry, Public Art Films, 1983.

4. Tats Cru: The Mural Kings by Lia, Jonathan, & Kotlinski, Mark, Anthem NYC (Firm) [New York] : Anthem NYC, 2006.

5. Wild Style by Ahearn, Charlie, Rhino Home Video [distributor], 2002.

6. Bomb It – by Reiss, Jon, 2007.

7. Graffiti-Post Graffiti – by Tschinkel, Paul, ART/new york, 1984.

Web Links

Art Crimes – https://www.graffiti.org

149th St. Com  – http://www.at149st.com

Concrete to Data Exhibition – https://concretetodata.com

TAWKIN NEW YAWK CITY WALLShttp://streetartmuseum.com

RJ Rushmore’s VIRAL ART Book –http://viralart.vandalog.com/read

LUNA PARK – Flickr Galleries – https://www.flickr.com/photos/lunapark/sets

Wooster Collective  – http://woostercollective.com

Brooklyn Street Art – http://brooklynstreetart.com

Vandalog – http://vandalog.com

Encrypted Fills – http://encryptedfills.com

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