Newsletter Issue:
Fall 2023

Graffiti in Rome Experiences of Art on Walls

By Rebecca Monaghan, Cohort ’23

In moments on the street with its movement, texture, smells, and heat, the walls speak to me and others in different, meaningful, and ever-changing ways. Stencil, mural, tag, sticker, word, painting, unfolding like a canvas as we walked through Rome’s Ostiense, San Lorenzo, Esquiline, and Testaccio neighborhoods. I posit that one of the best ways to look at a civilization is by the art they leave behind. Graffiti is a non-violent form of resistance for many groups, from revolutionaries to those interested in the aesthetic pleasure that art brings to the street. Graffiti can tell viewers about people, politics, culture, art, places, and society. Street art offers endless engagement for the viewer, a connection to people, and an experience for all who encounter the artwork. 

Figure 1: Baglione, Ostiense, May Cohort, 2023. Photo by Rebecca Monaghan.

Starting our journey in the Ostiense neighborhood, I captured figure 1, Herbert Baglione's mural work, described as a “metaphor for contemporary society in which we float in isolation” ( Baglione is a Brazilian artist who uses monochrome figures in black and white. The idea of floating in isolation made me think of the endless possibilities of technology, everything connected to the brain and the body being almost separate now.

Figure 2: Tory Schendel-Vyvoda, Cohort 23 and professor Shara Wasserman, San Lorenzo, May 2023. Photo by Rebecca Monaghan.

As we trekked through the dusty canvas-laden streets, our professor, Shara Wasserman, was a fantastic source of the city's history and, with enthusiasm, the history of art on the walls. 

Figure 3 is a monumental mural by Belgian street artist ROA, known for black and white animal images wheat-pasted on factories and urban walls. Typically, animals are native to the area where the artwork is placed. ‘Jumping Wolf” represents the legendary she-wolf story that is evident and storied as folklore throughout Rome.

Figure 3: ROA, Testaccio, May Cohort, 2023. Photo by Rebecca Monaghan.

In Figure 4, a large stencil poster by Sten Lex, two Italian artists specializing in large signs that merge stencil, optical art, and photography are considered pioneers in stencil art.

Figure 4" Sten Lex Sal, Vittorio Arrigoni, ex cinema Palazzo, 2012. May 2023. Photo by Rebecca Monaghan.

In Italy, street art is protected by copyright law, “based on which all creative intellectual works are recognized and granted (patrimonial) rights for the author, their work can only be economically exploited with their consent” July 18, 2023” (Flexner 2023). Protecting the creative intellectual works of street art is conversely different from how non-commissioned works are handled in many other countries, including the United States, where in some large cities, like Seattle, WA, it is illegal to make art in the street unless commissioned.

I am grateful to have traveled with IDSVA, Cohort 2023, and for this exposure to the street art scene in and around Rome. Every neighborhood was filled with tales to tell. I had the opportunity to experience and further my awareness and understanding of graffiti/ street art in its many genres, such as Visual Art. The ongoing effects of street art assist both in the history and future of an area and its residents, providing a continual, ever-changing documentation of the culture. 

Works Cited:

“Sten Lex.” I Support Street Art, 8 June 2017, 

Deitch, Jeffrey. Art in the Streets. Rizzoli Electa, 2021. 

Google Search, Google, Accessed 12 Nov. 2023. 

Italy, Boies Schiller Flexner. “Street Art and Art Law: From Milan to New York.” LinkedIn, 19 July 2023,,economically%20exploited%20with%20their%20consent.

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