Google Art Project Saves Fleeting Street Art


kakaako-2012-02One of the urban delights of traveling around Honolulu is spotting the many works of street art that turn drab warehouse walls and forgotten corners into brilliant works of art. Many of the best known examples come from Pow Wow Hawaii, an annual street art festival in Kakaako. This year was its fifth year, and it drew 100 street artists, photographers, musicians and media makers from around the world.

But street art is ephemeral. It gets painted over, or the buildings are demolished, and often your favorite mural disappears well before you’re ready to let it go. While there are dozens of online photo galleries and videos that document these fleeting artistic expressions, they’re scattered and often incomplete. The walls in the photo above and at right have since been painted over at least three more times.

Enter Google, and its now well-oiled Google Street View image capture program.

Spotting a Google Street View camera car today isn’t quite the rare sight it once was, and even Hawaii is well covered (debuting in 2009, and updated several times). The company’s immersive images of cities and neighborhoods around the world are well known (if somewhat controversial). But as Google’s camera-toting cars, bikes, and backpacks traversed over 5 million miles in over 50 countries, often more than once, the company realized it was capturing much more than intersections and road signs.

Last June, Google launched a street art project to feature street art captured by its Street View cameras around the globe. And this week, that project was greatly expanded. Under the auspices of the Google Cultural Institute, the Google Art Project has doubled the size of its street art collection. It now contains over 10,000 images, sharing the work of 85 art organizations from 34 countries.

PowWow Hawaii is included, and even featured in a blog post yesterday announcing the expansion. The Pow Wow Hawaii exhibits include images from 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well as satellite festivals in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Using the city as a canvas often means these artworks are here today, gone tomorrow… So much goes into making a piece of street art, yet its transient nature puts it at risk of being scrubbed out and lost forever,” Google says. “The Google Art Project allows these works of art to transcend the walls, be transported to your screen and live on.”

The company highlighted 5Pointz, a famous building in Long Island that had 200,000 square feet of wall space that was considered the “world’s premiere open air aerosol museum.” After standing for over a decade, the building was whitewashed in November 2013, and eventually demolished. Fortunately, you can revisit the glory days of “The Institute of Higher Burning” online.


And the galleries are not just on the web. Several collections are also available via Google’s Open Gallery platform, which supports apps for Android devices. The Pow Wow Hawaii app launched this week, alongside artists and museums in Amsterdam, Australia, India, Italy, and Russia.

Check out the Pow Wow Hawaii collection in the Google Art Project, or the Pow Wow Hawaii app. For more information on Pow Wow Hawaii, visit them at, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

1 Response

  1. Burn says:

    Lots of spots in the street art will be incorrectly identified as license plates and blurred out. Thanks European Policy!

Discover more from Hawaii Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading