Ms Snap, International Women's Crew

Greater visibility and commissioned work for women street artists worldwide

In the street art industry, there is a distinct disparity between the number of male and female artists being featured and commissioned for work. It is also well known in the industry that men are often paid more than their female counterparts. Via this campaign it is hoped that there will be great parity in opportunities and wages for all artists.

IWD Street Art collaborations help help raise greater awareness about the need for more women street artists to be recognized for their exceptional work and be subsequently commissioned for commercial projects. The collaborations provide an exciting opportunity to celebrate women street artists worldwide, get creative, and support the IWD theme campaigns.

Snaps is the founder of the International Women's Crew (and that's her above working on one of my creations). The first sponsored paint jam she ever went to saw Snaps as the only woman painting among 30 guys. She says this was slightly intimidating, but that the experience helped her create a network of artists. "The guys were great, they welcomed me and we still keep in touch. It did however make me ask the question where are all the women?" says Snaps.

We hear below from Snaps and her views on gender and street art.

The difference between Graffiti and Street Art

Graffiti generally relates to writing or drawings scribbled, scratched or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. Graffiti is usually viewed as an illegal act, but as the art form evolves it is more accepted by the community and more graffiti artists are successfully transitioning into commissioned work. 

Street Art refers to artwork that is created in a public space, typically with official permission. Street art is usually image-based but often includes typography or graffiti-style lettering. There is an intriguing relationship between Graffiti and Street Art. Artists have different reasons for engaging in either. The single thing both have in common is that they share a message, they tell a story. 

Gender issues in the street art scene

Women creatives

Image: Ms Snaps, International Women's Crew

When it comes to commissioned work, do women perceive they are getting equal opportunities to their male counterparts? Are women being paid the same for their work as men? And how perhaps has the street art scene and industry generally changed worldwide generally for women over the years?

So I asked a range of women worldwide these questions. Some of the women I spoke with have over 20 years’ experience in the industry, while others are new and emerging artists. All of the women approached were passionate about their work and they raised some highly interesting issues and great insight.

Some of the recurring themes and narratives included:

  • Visually there are more men than women involved in major events - and this is particularly evident when you watch, for example, YouTube.
  • There are internal struggles for artists charging adequately because it's hard for them to put a price on their work. Art is not made for the money, artists operate out of love and passion for creativity. But, women also have bills to pay, so here lies the constant dilemma.
  • Women creatives can sometimes lack the business skills and experience (and confidence!) which affects their ability to charge adequately.
  • There isn’t a worldwide standard rate for pricing or necessarily a shared understanding of the components involved when quoting for work.
  • There is significant agreement that when artists significantly under quote for their work, this impacts the value point within the industry and cheapens the pricepoint - thus impacting all artists in the long run and frustrating those who have spent considerable time building their profile and skills. 

So what are the solutions?

dragon art

Collectively, the women creatives pooled their thinking to identify some wonderful and pragmatic solutions:  

  • Major street art events need to offer equal opportunity for all genders to participate.
  • An increase in opportunities for all genders to collaborate on joint projects is key.
  • A shared resource is needed to help guide and educate women creatives about how to pitch and engage audiences for commissioned artwork. Plus tools are needed for educating buyers and funders.
  • A collective platform to profile artists and showcase their work is needed to help promote differing styles, trends and innovations - and to assist buyers understand, view and distinguish different levels of experience pendng project briefs.
  • Free education supporting women creatives in specific business skills and acumen is also highly desirable.

Indeed a great wish list! But there's a thriving global community, keen to support our mission. And, there's a massively increasing global community of women creatives.

As the industry continues to evolve, so do the opportunities available to women. And, we can all work together to support each other and dare to dream as big as we paint. Women can set aspirational goals and can achieve them all.

Need help? Then reach out! You’ll be surprised how many further people feel as passionate as you do.

I love to paint larger than life

Women's creative art and design

Image: Ms Snaps painting as the only woman on the wall 

I met a graffiti artist from London some years ago who taught me to spray paint. They sparked a passion, which I have embraced and used to transform my life and career.

I live in regional Australia and a year in, I felt so isolated without any other women to paint with. Considering this, I decided to seek out women who inspired me on Instagram, to see if they would be a part of a worldwide paint jam. This saw considerable feedback from 12 women keen to be involved, along with some great support from Ironlak and their incredible products.

Painting for International Women's Day.

To support International Women's Day back in 2018 and its #PressforProgress campaign theme, this group of female street artists painted murals around the world in an IWD Paint Jam in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Following this, I wanted to keep collaborating with the women creatives, so I invited everyone who participated in the Jam to form an International Women’s Crew and make a commitment to paint each year in March for International Women's Day. A number of the women were available and so International Women’s Crew was formed.

The crew is made up of Adore, Gembol, Miss Beatz, Mr B Baby, Ms Yellow, Nish, SAMU and Snaps.

Gembol Street art

IMAGE: Gembol, International Women’s Crew

I've always been inspired by the women creatives in Australia close to home and my heart. The more I get to know them, the more I grow as a person and artist. Shout out to Sup and all the Deadly Dames. Being from London, my partner showed me the Girls on Top Crew who were massive in the Graffiti scene there. Then, seeing other strong women writers like Me Me Sweets and what she had done to form Few and Far, really connected with me. All of these women artists and crews were tight, they blew my mind with their fresh designs and lit a fire under me to really embrace my creative side and see what positive impact I could have on my community by surrounding myself with like-minded people.

International Women’s Crew painted again in 2019 to support IWD's #BalanceforBetter campaign theme. Then, another amazing opportunity came up later that year. I had just become the Community Development Officer for Youth Sports and Recreation for our local council and was a part of the team organizing our Youth Festival. Through this, I was able to bring the crew together in Australia who became special guests at the Festival. We held an Art Jam which had over 60 young people creating stencils, learning to make prints and painting a collaborative mural. There was live street art entertainment at the closing event for the Youth Festival - The Palmy Street Party which saw over 1,000 people watch us paint together as a crew - seven women across the building. This was when, as a crew, we collaborated for the first time, splashing paint right across the side of the city’s Recreation Centre.

And the rest is history with exciting IWD theme creations for the many years following.

As an emerging artist, International Women's Day empowered me to hold a worldwide event, creating this crew. Through these projects I have grown, not only as an artist and crew member but also by choosing to upskill myself as a professional in event management and art curation. These skills will support me to coordinate future street art projects and initiatives. It excites me to see how many opportunities there will be to collaborate with other women and help build our worldwide community of female creatives.

We certainly thank the International Women’s Day team for supporting women street artists in an opportunity to share our story with the world.

So, let's take a look at some fairly impressive women who are thrashing it on the worldwide street art scene.

The fabulous Few and Far Crew are making an impact

IWD womenstreetart FewandFair

Image: Few and Far Women, United States

Few and Far is an assemblage of women who beautify the streets. In a shared commitment to creativity, education and social justice they draw, paint, skateboard and teach all over the globe. Street art is an international, visual language that ever evolves.  A mural is a story and each artist takes her turn in the telling. Using our gifts as totem makers, Few and far's reflections of the world is fantastic and distinctly feminine. By engaging communities in their narrative, they seek to foster young imagination to help the neighbourhood’s next generation recognise and channel their creative impulses. This conversation between artists and communities is an ongoing, global project to heal and bring together all people.

Meet the UK's first all female aerosol crew, Girls on Top

IWD women GirlsonTop

Image: Girls on Top, United Kingdom

The Girls On Top Crew was formed back in 2000 by Chock and Ned from Manchester in the UK. There weren't many girls painting graffiti at the time, and they wanted to encourage further girls to paint. Today, they are a 10 strong team and most of the women are employed in the arts sector. The current line-up is: Chock, Luna, Lyns, Syrup, Pixie, NeoNita, Bubs, Candie, Reznik and She. Their jams aim to unite girls in graffiti. They regularly feature in gallery shows, so if you like their style get in touch as they’d love to come and show in your area.

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