Urban Art Fest brings color, culture and resistance through art

A graffitied car on display at a prior Urban Arts Fest (Courtesy/Latinos Unidos Siempre)

If you’ve ever wanted to see graffiti artists paint a 30-foot wall, Salem’s Urban Art Fest is the place for you.

The free, all-ages event this Saturday celebrates graffiti art, rapping, beatboxing, breakdancing and show cars and bikes from Salem artists. It’s an annual showcase organized by Latinos Unidos Siempre, a youth organization.

Saturday’s lineup runs from noon to 7:30 p.m. and features live performances by DJ Sticky Soundwavves, local hip-hop artists and the Titlakawan Aztec dance group. The event is at 2640 Portland Road.

The festival began “as a way to create a safe space for youth and young artists who have been criminalized in the community for expressing themselves through the urban arts,” said Sandra Hernández-Lomelí, the organization’s director. “The dominant culture still sees it as deviant.”

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READ: Latinos Unidos Siempre teams up with Salem Art Association to spotlight, support urban art

She’s pursued other art-related projects for Latinos Unidos Siempre to give young people interested in tagging and graffiti a way to further that work without getting arrested or disciplined.

Beatboxing and breakdancing performances from the 2016 Urban Arts Festival (Video by Quauhtli Productions)

The art festival is a celebration but also has educational pieces.

The live graffiti demonstrations will include artists who can “answer questions about graffiti and explain how they came to be in this type of art,” Hernández-Lomelí said.

Though it’s youth organized, the typical crowd has everyone from children to seniors, Hernández-Lomelí said.

Show cars and bikes will be on display all day, and artists will sell their work. This year also includes food carts and brews from Xicha Brewing.

Beatboxers and break dancers will perform, and local artists will have space to sell their work.

“Sometimes you get shocked by how amazing and how talented local artists are,” Hernández-Lomelí said.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.