Murals of historic/artistic significance may seem like they have little to do with grimy/edgy graffiti, but these art forms of expression conceptually have similarities under the umbrella of “street art”. Murals often pay homage to treasured memories, historical landmarks or deceased people and often use similar paints to graffiti. However, murals tend to be more socially accepted than graffiti by the public, since graffiti is commonly affiliated with gang violence, crime and vandalism. James De La Vega, an acclaimed artist/muralist whose work is most famous in Spanish Harlem, follows this particular motto. Not only does he think his art pieces have more meaning than simply “tagging” your signature on a piece of territory, De La Vega does not associate with graffiti because he wants his artwork to be recognized freely without legal interference (one of the reason why he uses chalk rather than paints most of the time). De La Vega also believes his artwork tends to have more of a sophisticated message to the local youth like “Realiza tu sueno” (realize your dream) than “tagging” gang territories.
De La Vega’s beautiful and colorful murals honor Hispanic culture specifically, which earn him Spanish Harlem’s respect and support to continue his work around the community without police interfering. You can see De La Vega’s connection with the people of Spanish Harlem from this article:
De La Vega is a pioneer for modern art on the streets, but “insists he has nothing in common with the destructive impulses of graffiti.