Art festival staff get paint for families to use.
Festival staff assist families in getting paint to use for their art activity at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS.

Street art is controversial in many places. 

It has been traditionally associated with vandalism when people create on surfaces where they don’t have the legal permissions to do so. 

The LUX Center for Arts hosted a family street art festival on Sept. 4 to celebrate street art. The festival was a continuation of the mural reveal event the day before.

Local organizations partnered with the LUX Center by providing food, live music and free art activities for the community, said Gwendolyn Lopez, education director of The LUX Center.

“Our gallery director, Katelyn Farneth, came up with the idea of bringing murals and art out to the streets of our neighborhood,” Lopez said. “We did get a lot of sponsors across the city that supported the muralists and brought all of this together.”

Kieran Kissler, a volunteer at the festival, said the event was important for other communities in Lincoln to see the economic growth of northeast Lincoln. 

“People think there’s nothing to do and not a lot of businesses, which isn’t true,” Kissler said. “The business street is historic; it’s been here for a long time.”

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Jory Rybij (left) and her daughter Navaeh, who is holding their art poster, are pictured at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. “(The festival is) important for the community to come together to see expressions of art,” Jory said. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

Nevaeh Rybij, who lives near the LUX Center, said she dragged her father to the festival after seeing the event poster. 

“She didn’t drag me. I was happy to come,” chuckled Jory, her father.

Arianna Brandstetter, who also lives near the LUX Center, said street art is no longer seen as a random person tagging a wall.

“Street art allows people to express themselves and other ideas that might not fit on an 8×10 painted in an art gallery,” Brandstetter said. “You can walk by it without having to come to an art gallery between 10 to 5 Monday through Friday.”

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Arianna Brandstetter (right) brought her friend, Sparky Otero (middle) and her child to the family street art festival at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Brandstetter dresses in gothic fashion when she’s not at work. “I’m doing a punk, goth-type look,” Brandstetter said. “It’s like ‘Nightmare Before Christmas.’” Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

Sparky Otero, who is Brandstetter’s friend, said expressing oneself in any art form creates a smarter person all around.

“In those little areas where street art isn’t known very well, it has created a more welcoming environment for a lot of people,” Otero said. 

This is true for the LUX Center. Over the past week, 10 U.S. and international artists painted murals along 48th Street.

“I remember coming here just a few days ago and they were working on it (the murals),” Navaeh said. “It took them less than a week to create it all.”

Likewise, Julie Veach and her family came to the festival because they were driving past University Place and saw the murals. “They always have fun activities for the kids to do,” Veach said. 

People are embracing street art as a way to improve the neighborhood and create a greater sense of ownership toward the neighborhood, Kissler said.

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Kieran Kissler, who is in an apron, assists a family at the poster-making station at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

While Kissler was working at the poster-making station during the festival, most of the children decided to paint monsters and dinosaurs. A 6-year-old in particular had a different idea in mind. They painted a sunflower with the words, “Help our community.“ 

“It was something that they thought about themselves,” Kissler said. “Kids in their own way are engaged with the neighborhood too.”

In addition to the festival, the LUX Center works to change the negative perception of street art by encouraging people to experience it. 

Gwendolyn Lopez was in charge of the free activities and setting up the festival. But part of her job as education director is to bring and teach art at places like Lincoln Public Schools, detention centers and retirement homes.

“We have an alley that’s open 24/7, we have paint,” Lopez said. “You can make your own street art right here.”


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Gwendolyn Lopez, education director at the LUX Center, manages the art booths on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. The festival was important to Lopez because she said it brought together people from different backgrounds across the city that didn’t know LUX existed. “Street is something that can motivate and bring the community together, and support businesses,” Lopez said. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Musician Emily Bass (right) and a guitar accompanist perform at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Julie Veach paints a heart, half black and half rainbow, on a ground canvas at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Zyanah Veach, Julie’s child, painted a blue face with eyes, ears and mouth on canvas at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Kieran Kissler, a volunteer at the poster-making station, is pictured at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. “As we had an idea of what’s safe to do, it’s cool to see people get out and about again, do family-friendly activities,” Kissler said. “(People) coming together to celebrate what’s going on in our larger community.” Kieran works for Collective Impact Lincoln where she encourages residents and neighborhoods to create meaningful and lasting change they want to see. The festival was an example of seeing residents get involved in their community, Kissler said. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Pictured is Kieran Kissler’s heart-shaped tattoo on her left arm with the words “GRL.PWR.” “I got it at a time where I was interested in the historic origins of riot grrrl music and how it was empowering to women in the Northwest in the 90s,” Kissler said. She started patching her tattoo sleeve together at 18 and she is now in her 20s. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Festival staff assist families in getting paint to use for their art activity at the LUX Center on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

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Chalk art drawn by festival participants is pictured at the LUX Center grounds on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS
Ashley is a senior journalism major and film studies minor at UNL who's passionate about photography. She is currently a photographer for the Daily Nebraskan, and she enjoys curating her Spotify playlist during her free time.