Reverse Graffiti


PHOTO: Cameron Brooks

PHOTO: Cameron Brooks

Have you ever written your name on a fogged up window, or “wash me” on a dirty car? If so, you are a reverse graffiti artist! Many paints have toxic chemicals in them, and brushes are either made using chemicals, or animal hair from hogs, horses, badgers or others. Instead of harming animals and the environment, reverse graffiti removes pollution

PHOTO: Alexandre Orion

PHOTO: Alexandre Orion

One of the first large works of reverse graffiti was created by Alexandre Orion, an artist from São Paulo, Brazil. Using rags and water, he scrubbed away layers of grime left behind by thousands of cars that drove through the tunnel each day. The local police wanted to stop Orion, but they couldn’t since cleaning is not against the law. Eventually, the city brought in trucks with water tanks and high-powered hoses to clean the walls along the tunnel. They also cleaned up other polluted tunnels in São Paulo. Around the globe, creative people are leaving thoughtful works of art on all sorts of surfaces by simply cleaning away dirt, dust and grime.


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. In your own words, write three details that support the main idea.

3. How do reverse graffiti artists create?

4. In the first photograph, why do you think the artist wrote the word listen?

5. Why would the police want to stop reverse graffiti?

6. Why do you think the city government chose to clean the walls in the tunnel?

7. Why do you think Alexandre Orion chose skulls for the polluted walls?

8. Describe places where you live that would make good locations for reverse graffiti.

9. Describe other forms of art that do not harm the environment.

10. Is public art important? Explain.

11. How does public art affect people?

12. If you could have lunch with Alexandre Orion, what questions would you ask him? What would you like to tell him about your creativity?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Public art often includes hidden messages that cause people to think or feel a certain way. If you could create public art, what important message or messages would you want to share? Write your message on a piece of paper, then create an illustration that communicates your message.

2. Find a dirty surface and ask an adult for permission to create a piece of reverse graffiti.

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

3. São Paulo, Brazil is famous for its vibrant street art. A few areas of the city are completely covered with works like the ones above photographed along Batman Alley. Some artists ask permission to paint on the walls, and some do not. Many city governments choose to paint over graffiti. Should graffiti be allowed in certain places, or nowhere at all? Write a letter to your mayor or commissioner and share your opinion. Use details, facts and examples to support your position.

4. Click here to learn more about Brazil.




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