English Vocabulary: Street Art and Social Responsibility

Did you that slogans of protest and political or social commentary were the start of graffiti and street art? However, it was in the late 1960’s in New York, that graffiti really took off, with artists such as Cornbread. 

In the following post, we are going to learn some English vocabulary related to street art. You can find the highlighted vocabulary words below. 

How do you feel about graffiti? Graffiti is an Italian word adopted by the English to describe unauthorized writing or drawing on a public surface.

The word ‘graffiti’ comes with a negative connotation, reminding us that graffiti is not a socially desired good. However, artists in the past couple of decades have been changing the social nature of graffiti, using it as a thought-provoking tool for social change by bringing art to the streets. This movement of bringing art to the streets has been appropriately coined, “street art.”

Street art can have a social impact. This was most recently noted by the recent winner of the TED Prize, street artist and photographer JR. He brings global awareness to social issues that are otherwise overlooked by highlighting them through his art, often giving them a human face. “Working with a team of volunteers in various urban environments, he mounts enormous black-and-white photo canvases that spread on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa, and across the favelas of Brazil,” explains the TED Prize announcement. JR is one of the many street artists has who has been making people think about the world in which we live in a different way.

JR Street Art


JR Street Art

Have you seen any interesting street art in your neighborhood? Send us a photo!


Unauthorized – (adj.) without permission.

Connotation – (noun) an idea or quality that a word makes you think about in addition to its meaning.

Decade – (noun) a period of 10 years.

Thought-provoking – (adj.) causing people to think seriously about something.

Movement – (noun) a series of organized activities in which many people work together to do or achieve something.

Coined – (verb) to create (a new word or phrase) that other people begin to use.

Noted – (adj.) famous or well-known.

Awareness – (noun) knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists.

Overlook – (verb) to fail to see or notice (something).

Mounts – (verb) to attach (something) to something for support or use.

Slum – (noun) an area of a city where poor people live and the buildings are in bad condition

If you’d like to see more of JR’s art, head over to Artsy, a website that aims to make art accessible to everyone. We highly recommend you check out Artsy’s tour of JR’s New York studio. Hint: it’s FULL of artwork!

Did you enjoy this post? TWEET IT OUT: I’m enjoying this fun ABA English lesson on street art and graffiti #twinglish


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