One small street in the historic downtown of Ghent is constantly changing in appearance as it is deliberately left to street artists who use it as a living public gallery.
What was once simply an unimpressive alley connecting the streets of Hoogpoort and Onderstraat is now an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of graffiti. The constantly changing, two block expanse was officially converted into the cacophonous mash-up of throw-ups it is today, way back in 1995 as part of the Ghent Festivities festival.
After that first time, the city decided to simply make the alley a permanent exhibition of graffiti, open to anyone who would like to come and express themselves. Every now and then the alley is painted over to give the artists a blank canvas. The only rule here is to respect finer work than your own.
Of course, this move was not solely a move to honor street artists. By making a street where graffiti was permitted, the city hoped that it would act as a magnet, keeping random acts of graffiti off of the city’s impressive collection of historic buildings. So far, the experiment seems to be working, as the rest of Ghent seems to be relatively graffiti free.
As an added bonus, the street itself has become a popular site for tourists and locals alike who come to see the street that is never the same twice. And lest anyone think that a street devoted to graffiti might become a cesspool of filth and crime, despite having no trash cans, the alley remains surprisingly clean. Fun fact!
Update November 2018: The city painted over the graffiti and now the walls are just blue.