RENEW
Feb 12, 2014

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Hitchhikers: A 3D Project That Could Get Your Students Arrested

HItchhikers

As art teachers, the first thing we need to realize about Street Art is that it is illegal. If the art being made is legal, if an artist has permission to place the art at an allotted location, then the art is public art, not street art. Nothing can get a class of high schoolers more fired up than a good lesson about breaking the law. I discovered this when teaching my art history class about the different genres of street art.

What comes to mind when most people think of street art is visions of stencils and cans of spray paint. Old schoolers think about graffiti on the sides of trains while new comers probably think of Banksy. Even those who aren’t familiar with the current street art movement, have probably seen an OBEY baseball cap or the Obama Hope poster, both created at the hand of street artist Shepard Fairey. Digging deeper into the world of this rather recent art movement will reveal a notorious sub genre know as hitchhikers.

The term “hitchhikers” describes any type of street art that is attached to a pole or other object. The hitchhiker then becomes part of the pole. Sometimes the hitchhiker is disguised or changes the meaning of the pole. An example might be adding leaves to a stop sign to change its appearance into a flower. Other times hitchhikers are meant to stand out, latching on to their hosts for the ride.

stop-sign-flower-mark-jenkins

A few semesters back, I was presenting the Street Art movement to my Art History class. I first gave recognition to the early street artists… the cavemen drawing on the walls of Lascaux. I then paid tribute to Keith Haring who sat on the cutting edge between Pop Art and the Street Art movement. I talked about stencils, and wheat paste, and police, and being arrested. At some point in the presentation I arrived at hitchhikers. As students shouted out, “Mr. Sands, can we do that?” I quickly reviewed the section on orange jumpsuits, which of course only exacerbated the issue. It wasn’t long before we were all sucked up into a street art scheme we dubbed, the Pole Gallery.

Posters were made and distributed throughout the art classes.

Open Call For Artists!

The first exhibition of the Pole Gallery will run June 8th thru June 15th.

The Pole Gallery is a temporary exhibit of hitchiker street art. 
Exhibit locations are temporary and change with each art show.

Posting times: Artists wishing to enter hitchhiker art should post on Sunday, June 8th. All art should be removed by 4:00 PM June 15th.

Location: Wooden Pole Street: Intersection of Laura Duncan and Old Raleigh Road City/Town: Apex, NC

I drove pasted the Pole Gallery the day after it opened on my way to school.

pole 1

Once in class, I took attendance with considerable trepidation but was happy to discover that no one had been arrested. In fact, the response to The Pole Gallery was overwhelmingly positive. I received an email not long after from the teen coordinator of the town library asking if our students would like to create a Pole Gallery to display there. everyone was excited to participate and we soon had enough hitchhikers to fill 16 feet worth of picket fencing.

pole8-2

Of course, since we were invited, that project was public art…but I didn’t tell the students that.

We’d love to know, have you ever done anything like hitchhiker art? 

How would a project like this go over in your town or city? 

What questions do you have about the process? 

IanThis article was written by AOE Team member Ian Sands. Ian is the incredibly creative HS Art Teacher from Apex High in North Carolina. Ian is originally from NYC where he received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts.

About Ian | Ian’s Articles

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  • Heather Hawkins-Scott

    I love it! What did you use to make your hitchhikers?

    • iansands

      Thanks! Mostly we used cardboard boxes we snagged out of the dumpster and tempera paint

  • ArtCLassWithLMJ.wordpress.com

    THIS IS GREAT! :)

  • Kim Mason

    Love the “pole gallery” and can’t wait to share this with my students. My high school students actually did a study on Banksy and Shepard Fairey last year. They had to create a design with the idea that they could imagine being spray painted on our school campus. The designs were so overwhelmingly clever and great that I decided to have the students pitch their designs with a background on urban/graffiti art to our Heads of School. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Nervous to hear the words “spray paint” uttered from the art students’ mouths, I started to see our administration’s nervousness turn to curiosity. It was a wonderful conversation and in the end, several designs were allowed to painted and can now be cleverly spotted around our campus. Since this brave venture we have “yarn bombed” a row of trees and are about to embark on a “locksport” project using an iron tree sculpture (versus a bridge) to raise money for our fall New York City trip. Thank you for posting this article. Just love it!

  • Pamela

    You rock! That is awesome and what teaching should be!