A city tour of Dresden’s street art Flood channel, school yard and „under the bridge“

DREWAG
DREWAG | Photo (detail): Charlotte Töwe

As an out-of-towner enquiring about Dresden’s street-art scene, one is bound to end up in the city’s Neustadt, a hip quarter filled with popular shops, back yards and trendily dilapidated old buildings. Yet crews that are well known for their graffiti art, such as the “Bandits” or “BSX”, need bigger spaces and surfaces in quieter environments.

Many graffiti artists take their passion to the city’s outer circles and surroundings, because suitable spaces located in industrial areas near the city centre are being torn down. Dresden’s city council, however, has expressed an interest in this form of youth culture and aims at legalizing this type of art by creating legal zones for professional graffiti artists. The goal is to integrate their artwork into both urban reconstruction processes and the cityscape.

The youth club “Spike Dresden” emerged as an important lobbyist for the establishment of so-called “Legal Plains”. Award-winning graffiti artists take up the role of gatekeepers; they are included in the club’s youth work scheme and bring their protégés when the city offers new major projects.

After reunification, hip-hop and breakdance have become essential elements of Dresden’s new youth culture, also closely linked to street art. Changes in urban architecture, swiftly abandoned factories, and spaces between buildings were among the catalysts that drove Dresden’s flourishing street-art scene.

Legal zones in Dresden’s Neustadt

Katy's Garage, Corner of Louisen-/Alaunstraße, 01099 Dresden
N 51°4'00.304", E 13°45'06.299"

A legal graffiti zone that spans 150 square metres is located between “Scheune” and “Katy’s Garage”, the unofficial centre of Dresden’s Neustadt. The street art changes frequently here. Although it is less complex and smaller than elsewhere, this is still a good starting point to explore Neustadt’s lively street art. Just across the road from this space, one of Dresden’s very first graffiti crews - the Bandits - are working on the design of the children and youth centre Louise.

DREWAG – Stations

Dreyßigplatz, 01139 Dresden-Mickten
Tram: 4, 9, 13 (Mickten)
N 51°4'52.187", E 13°42'46.443"

The buildings of Dresden’s municipal utilities - the DREWAG - have always been a utopia for graffiti artists. Since 1999, the DREWAG has regularly recruited such artists to design their spaces. As a result, over one hundred buildings within the entire metropolitan area have received a makeover; most of them were painted in a more conventional fashion by brush. A particularly exemplary work is Christian S.F. Gersdorf’s airbrush artwork, which gave Mickten pumping station a new look. The illusion of columns and bricks pays homage to the Wilhelminian architecture of the nearby train station.

Legal zones in the flood channel

Flood channel bridge, Washingtonstraße, 01139 Dresden
Bus: 70, 80 (Gewerbegebiet Kaditz), take the stairs in front of the „Hornbach“ that descend into the flood channel
N 51°4'43.032", E 13°41'22.164"

During the springtime, the water from the river Elbe is redirected here to prevent Dresden’s inner city from flooding. For the remaining time of the year, art-lovers get to enjoy this space as a street art gallery. The six solid pillars that support the Kaditzer flood channel bridge were declared legal spraying zones by the city. The paintings change at irregular intervals, but those wanting to pay the gallery a visit will always have the chance to see ambitious works of art that cover the 20x20m concrete surface. Young artists can use this site to practice their skills without the pressure of time as well.

Gorbitz’s blue foot tunnel

Foot tunnel, Omsewitz 1, 01169 Dresden
Once at the train station, walk up to Harthaer Straße,
Tram: 2, 7 (Schlehenstraße)
N 51°2'56.057", E 13°39'31.682"

In 2010 and 2011, the city assigned the local youth club “Spike Dresden” to paint three foot tunnels in Dresden’s Gorbitz district. Previously, these tunnels had been used as illegal spraying sites and were later designed in constantly changing styles and themes as part of the “Urban Syndrom” graffiti contest. It was then decided that the tunnels, which had been cause for public annoyance in the past, should be designed in matching colours and themes in order to successfully manage a transformation from symbol of public disdain, to a public artwork. In two months approximately 40 artists revamped more than 2,000 square metres.

Gorbitz’ orange foot tunnel

Foot tunnel, Omsewitz 2, 01169 Dresden
Once at the train station, walk up to Harthaer Straße,
Tram: 2, 7 (Bhf. Gorbitz)
N 51°2'48.517", E 13°39'11.501"

While the walls of Gorbitz’s first tunnel are decorated in various shades of blue and are graced with images revolving around themes of the underwater world and pirates, tunnel number two is covered in honey coloured paintings. “Maya the Bee” and other comic book and animated figures brighten the days of those who use the foot tunnel to cross one of Dresden’s biggest roads. Apart from nationally renowned graffiti crews such as the “Bandits” or “BSX”, local children, youths and residents were also part of the project, which led to an increased acceptance of these types of artworks.

„Geograffiti“ at Plauen station

Plauen station, Bahnhofstraße, 08547 Plauen
S-Bahn (Dresden-Plauen), Bus: 61, 62, 85 (Hp. Plauen)
N 51°1'48.298", E 13°42'12.812"

Artist Anja Sonnenburg’s “geograffiti” entered the local arts scene and glossaries after she began to experiment with a form of chalk drawing as part of a project run by the “Haifische-Dresden-Süd-West e.V.” collective, that aimed to explore the history of public spaces. Sonnenburg, a free artist and sculptor, uncovered the origin of the district’s name as referring to its multi-layered, cretaceous rock deposits. Inspired by geological sketches, she visualised these on black backgrounds.

Skatepark Strehlen

Skatepark, Teplitzer Straße, 01219 Dresden
Bus stop Corinthstraße, Bus: 66, 75 (Corinthstraße)
N 51°1'17.215", E 13°45'51.103"

It was city authorities who commissioned the painting of the walls surrounding Strehlen’s skate and sports park - they are now decorated with comic strips and 3D-writing. In coordination with “Spike Dresden”, local graffiti crews were assigned the job. Not far from the park, in front of a school, is located one example of roughly a hundred power distribution units. Quite suitably for its location, the unit is covered in youthful motifs. The graffiti artists developed separate concepts for each of the units, so that these would be blend in with their surroundings.

Legal Plains at „Spike Dresden“

„Spike Dresden“ - Altstrehlen 1 e. V.
Karl-Laux-Straße 5, 01219 Dresden
N 51°0'49.320", E 13°46'15.204"

At „Spike Dresden“ youth club, street art has been the number one priority for 15 years. A 500m² space is available to anyone who wants to put his or her graffiti skills to the test. Additionally, young enthusiasts get to observe bigger artworks in the making - every step of the way from start to finish. Twice a week professional graffiti artists pass on their know-how in youth workshops. The premises comprise of several wooden walls that are regularly redesigned. “Spike Dresden” is also home to the annual international graffiti festival “Urban Syndrom” (28.-30.06.13).

The „bridge gallery“ at Mitte station

Mitte station, Könneritzstraße 1, 01067 Dresden
Tram: 1, 2, 6, 10
N 51°3'18.722", E 13°43'24.516"

Sponsored by several Dresden-based firms, the four artists of “Matter of Taste” have transformed a 1km stretch of bridge arches into a gallery in just two years. The forty arches were completed in a variety of painting styles in 2006, just in time for the city’s jubilee: photo-realism sits side-by-side with illusion-painting, and oil-paintings are seen alongside simple symbolic motifs. Much of the sponsored art depicts famous Dresden based sites and monuments.

Art in and around Mitte station

Könneritzstraße 1/Corner of Schwerinerstraße, 01067 Dresden
S-Bahnhof Mitte, Tram: 1, 2, 6, 10
N 51°3'14.352", E 13°43'22.479"

Local academic designer and scenographer Henry Leonhard painstakingly designed four of the arches in the entrance area of the Mitte Bahnhof. Opposite to Leonhard’s artwork are two gigantic façade paintings, among them Jens Besser’s “Bananenrepublik“. Many of the gaps between buildings still act as testaments to damage caused during World War II, and Besser has decorated these empty frontages with his fantasy paintings. He also initiated the project „RAUM City Bilder – Kunst auf Brandwänden”. As part of this project, eighteen artists, hailing from nine different countries, have created more than ten frontage paintings since 2011. The “riesa efau” presents Jens Besser’s street-art as part of regular tours.