South Side Middle School art students draw inspiration from street art


During a lesson on the principles of emphasis and movement, eighth-grade students in the Studio in Art program at South Side Middle School were allowed to create their compositions inspired by street artists Keith Haring and Banksy.

Art teacher Christy Silecchia-Ferrone said the inspiration for the project was driven by whether their artwork should be considered genius or vandalism, and how both Haring and Banksy changed graffiti culture while elevating themselves to a finer art.

Haring emerged from the graffiti subculture of New York City in the 1980s and quickly gained notoriety for his subway chalk drawings. During his early experimental phase, he developed his signature, “The Radiant Baby”—a symbol of home and human potential.

It wasn’t long before Haring would become a well-known figure in the art scene, where he would make a name for himself through his easily distinguishable “cookie cutter” character design. His work was often attached to societal messages and themes including the crack epidemic, homosexuality, safe sex, and AIDS awareness.

His designs shared a simplistic trait that would elevate Haring to a level of commercial success. His work includes paintings, drawings and sculptures, many of which have been featured in museums and galleries all across the world for more than three decades. His art even graced the cover of Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” record and was featured on the hit children’s television show Sesame Street.

Banksy is a pseudonymous street artist, political activist and filmmaker from the United Kingdom, whose satirical epigrams and distinctive stenciling technique have made him a known entity worldwide.

While not much is known about his identity, Banksy started as a freehand graffiti artist in the 90s. Much of his earliest work is also unknown. By the early 2000s, he began using stencils, which he often paired with pithy slogans that expressed anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishmentarian messages.

Much of his work features a blend of subjects—including rats, apes, police officers, soldiers, and children—and objects such as CCTV cameras, bombs, flowers and balloons to provide commentary on some of society’s ilk.

Eventually, his work became so globally popularized that Banksy began looking for new ways to make a statement through his satire-laden artwork. In 2015, he opened Dismaland, a large-scale concept modeled after Disneyland theme parks. Two years later, he marked the 100th anniversary of the British control of Palestine by financing the creation of the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.

By 2018, Banksy was at it again. This time making headlines all across the world by auctioning off one of his original works, “Balloon Girl” for more than one million pounds. As soon as the painting was sold, an alarm sounded inside the frame as the canvas was pushed through a shredder, instantaneously destroying the art.

Inspired by these two renowned street artists, the eighth-grade art students came up with their own interpretations based on their concepts and designs. To learn more about the project or for more student artwork, visit