Situation:

Urban art’s perceptions have been shifting in recent years, with the popularization of major players like Banksy. But how does this public form of art serve a different role in communities experiencing political tension and unrest? Oaxaca and Mexico City serve as two viable examples.

Challenge:

For my undergraduate thesis, I wanted to focus on a subject that could weave together my areas of focus: journalism, advertising and Spanish. Mexico is regarded as the birthplace of the muralism movement, and with the tension that has been building in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election, I wanted to see how Mexican artists were using a visual medium to engage in dialogue in both Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Approach:

Since 2016, I have been investigating this topic by using every research tool at my disposal. In 2017, I traveled to Mexico City and Oaxaca for three weeks, interviewing and photographing urban artists throughout different states of Mexico, and was able to receive university funding to do it all again in 2019. I continued to add to my body of research from late December to mid-March, and spent the final months of my college career transferring everything I had learned into a written thesis, which I defended in May 2019 before a panel of advisors, friends and family. I passed with distinction, the highest level of recognition for undergraduate theses, but came away with an even greater reward: a new take on research.

This project has entirely changed the way I see research and understand curiosity. Through asking more questions and never accepting the easy answer, research can grow legs that take you to places you wouldn’t have expected, and introduce you to people who can change your life. Now, I am even more of a believer that I can do anything, and am already itching to start a new project.

Access my thesis here.

See some of my original photographs below: