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Qistina Donna Lee Abdullah1, Salmiah Abdul Hamid2, Aliffazraie Jali3, Jimmy Salau4

Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia
Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia
Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia
Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia


This paper presents a frequency and descriptive testing on public perception of street art in preserving Malaysian
culture. Street art has emerged as a new form of public art which starting to gain attention in different countries
around the world, including Malaysia. Street art creates a new phenomenon to the country’s, especially the main
cities’ interactivity and vitality such as Kuala Lumpur and Pulau Pinang. As it is still considerably new in
Malaysia, there has not been many local studies that examine the preservation of Malaysian culture through
street art or its potential as a creative medium in enhancing people’s experience. Based on case studies conducted
in Georgetown, Laman Seni, and Kuching, this study aims to explore people’s perception of street art in
preserving the Malaysian culture. The sample size for the study was 384 samples whereby the respondents are
aged 20 years old and above. The data will by and large represent the perceived value of public appreciation
towards the street arts in Malaysia.

Keywords: Descriptive Data Analysis, Malaysian Culture, Public Perception, Street Art

The role of art and artistic activities in improving the quality of the urban environment
currently has achieved more significant values. In a research conducted by Johanson (2015),
the author argued that arts play very important role in our daily life in relations to the value of
common public spaces. She also described as the “everyday arts” such as arts performances
and exhibitions as a transformative potential of the city. The arts and cultural activities were
developed through vacant units in Fo Tan, Kwun Tong or Chai Wan in Hong Kong by the
artists (Charrierasa, Darchenb and Siglerb, 2018). Thus, what is the contribution of street arts
to the cities or communities? Young (2014) in her book on the “Street Art, Public City: Law,
Crime and the Urban Imagination” describe street arts as;

Street art, although a distinctive phenomenon with many discrete
characteristics, intersects with a range of other activities and practices, and
draws meaning from these other phenomena, while evolving attributes of its
own that operate to constitute an image in public space as a street artwork (or
not) (p.5).

Street art is rather new which started in 2010 in Malaysia but yet it is only now that people are
more aware of its importance in improving the city’s image, further to preserved our culture.
Street art is a branch of public art that appears on the street such as mural art, graffiti and
others convey stories about the city (Riggle, 2010). Street art adds liveliness to the city, where
at times, they encourage responses between people and spaces. Some artists claim, that street
art is an important element for a place to function, and it is purposely organized with their
own symbolic values or principles. According to Daichendt (2013), he states that street art is
created by street artists to express their feelings or ideas, whether to increase interactivity of
the city or just as a form of expression within the community. Street arts are no longer
considered vandalism but part of the contemporary art and visual culture (Irvine, 2012). Street
art is seen as a process which includes public participation as part of the creative expression.
Community participation ranges from the commissions of local artists to the use of local
materials as well as community reviews based on the street arts (Liew, 2008).

There are substantial number of studies on the roles of street art and its benefit towards
aesthetic, economic, social and cultural. However, (Ismail, 2014) agrees that while there are a
number of studies on the importance of street to people, and place, he relates further that there
is limited empirical knowledge about how the general public defines street or whether they
perceive any benefit from public artworks in the urban space. This shows that there is still
very little research that delves into public perceptions of street art and its potential to become
an interactive form of artwork to preserve our culture. This problem is observed generally in
most rapidly developing cities such as Buenos Aires, Argentina, Granada, Spain, Toronto,
Canada, Rishikesh, North India and many more as listed by Garside (2017).

Figure 1: A street art of “Journey of a City Girl”, in Toronto, Canada (source:

Although the installation of street art has been established for quite some time and even more
today, there is little idea on the public’s thought on the matter and whether the people perceive
street art to be of any importance to the city or not. Thus, it is imperative to study the
significance of street art to preserving Malaysian culture to the city and the perception of
people living alongside it.

2.1 Location study

Based on the availability and visibility of street art for public interactions, the location of the
study is conducted around Georgetown, (Pulau Pinang), Laman Seni, (Kuala Lumpur) and
Kuching, (Sarawak).

2.2 Survey Questionnaire

The purpose of conducting this questionnaire is to get feedback from different users for their
profiles, level of awareness and perceptions about the street art. There are three sections
consisting of close-ended questions, scale question and open-ended question. 384 respondents
were distributed in case study.

3.1 Reliability Test

The result of Cronbach’s Alpha (CA)’s value of 0.890 is significant in this study through
reliability test analysis on the 30 items. This analysis was counted based on the 384 valid

Table 1: Reliability Statistics

Cronbach's Alpha Cronbach's Alpha N of Items
Based on
Standardized Items

.890 .889 30

3.2 Respondents’ Knowledge of Street art

This part of the paper provides discussion and analyses on the perception of respondents over
street art using closed-ended questions and likert scales. In the first few questions,
respondents were required to provide information regarding their general knowledge and
understanding of street arts. For the open-ended questions, the questions include the level of
knowledge about street art, opinion of what street art is and what makes a good street art,
importance of street art as well as benefits of street art. In addition, respondents were required
to express their views with regards to characteristics of street art by looking into their degree
of consensus (agreeing or disagreeing) to a set of given statements through the use of the four-
point Likert scale. Another set of scale is used to identify perceived degree of importance to a
set of given criteria that indicate good street art.

Table 2: Frequency Distribution of Respondents’ Level of Knowledge About Street Art
Frequency Percent (%)
Know very little 215 56
Not sure 113 29.4
Know quite well 56 14.6
Total 384 100

Table 2 shows the distribution of the respondents in terms of their level of knowledge about
street art. The results reveal that 56 percent (215 people) of the respondents admitted that they
know very little about street art. The remaining 29.4 percent (113 people) and 14.6 percent
(56 people) of the respondents acknowledge that they are unsure and know quite well about
street art respectively. This indicates that a majority of the respondents have very little
knowledge about street art and this is a reasonable response since based on their field of
profession, majority were non art and design related fields.

3.3 Respondents’ Opinion of good street art to preserve our culture

From the survey, respondents were also asked about what they think makes a good street art.
Specifically, good street art here refers to successful and is received well by the public. This is
to identify elements or characteristics of a good street art from the respondents’ point of view.
Based on Table 3, 23.2 percent of the participants are of the opinion that a good street art has
to be attractive. This gives an impression that aesthetic quality is an important success factor
for street art. This finding is supported by a study conducted by Wang (2009) where it is
found that street art is expected to have aesthetic value and creates a pleasurable experience to
its audience.

Table 3: Respondent Opinion
N Percent (%)
Perception of Attractive 89 23.2
good street art Represent history/ Culture 71 18.5
frequency of
response Meaningful & Unique 67 17.4
Tourist attraction 51 13.3
City beautification 82 21.3
Others 24 6.3
TOTAL 384 100

The second most answered response is the ability of street art to portray city identity with 21.3
percent response from the respondents. This gives the notion that a good street art must have
the ability to express the identity of the city. Additionally, this also supports claims by Hall
and Robertson (2001) that street art is able to develop a sense of identity and place as well as
enhance civic identity. A good street art is able to help the city acquire a sense of definition in
terms of what kind of a city it is, thus differentiating it from other cities.

3.4 Respondents perceived important of street art to preserve our culture

As seen on Table 4, the participants were asked about the importance of street art. The very
reason for this question is to identify whether the existence of street art had any importance to
a place or community as well as the reasons for its importance. A large portion of the response
reveals that street art is important with 90 percent response from the respondents, from the
results, it is acknowledged that the two main reasons for the importance of public art are
beautifying city and preserving history/culture. Meanwhile, 10 percent of the respondents say
that street art is not important. They believe that street art is merely for the purpose of
aesthetics and does not serve any other functions.

Table 4: Respondent Perceived Important of the Street Art
Importance of street art Frequency Percent
Yes 346 90
No 38 10
Total 384 100

As seen in Table 5, about 30.2 percent of the respondents say that street art is important to
beautify the city. This is followed by 23.4 percent of the respondents that answer street art is
important to preserve the history and culture of the place and community. Hence, in this sense
street art further expands its role in urbanized regeneration because of its ability to make a
place more interesting and creates a richer visual environment. While street art is not only
regarded for its ability to enhance the visual quality of the environment, it is gaining greater
importance as a mean to preserve history and culture. Based on the results, the area where the
majority of respondents stating that street art is used as means to show history, culture and
identity of the city is consistent with the findings by M. Mustafa (2009) whereby street art is
seen as a tool to honors and promote local history and culture. The results of this study
supports these claims as well. Not only does street art remind them of the history that has
taken place and the culture that the community holds on to, it serves to educate younger
generations about the place and the community in which they live in.

Table 5: Reasons for Importance of Street Art
Reasons for importance of street art
Labeling N Percent
Perceived reasons for importance Beautify city 116 30.2
of street art frequency of response Preserve history/ culture 90 23.4
City identity 78 20.3
Not important 17 4.4
Tourist attraction 54 14.1
Other 22 5.7
*n.a 7 1.9
Total 384 100
*n.a – not answer

3.5 Level of Agreement on the Characteristics of Street Art

Table 6 shows analysis on the respondent’s level of agreement regarding the characteristics of
street art project. Overall, the respondents showed high level of agreement for all the items
listed that reflects the characteristics of the street art. The respondents strongly agree that
street art contributes to their joy with its presence and shows the history of the local
community with means scores of 3.52 (SD = 0.545) and 3.45 (SD = 0.663) respectively. The
respondent strongly agree that the street art serves as a landmark, created public space and
enhances the beauty of the city with means scores 3.34 (SD = 0.652), (M = 3.27, SD = 0.529)
and (M = 3.50, SD = 0.563). On the other hand, respondent merely agree to the decision
regarding street art contributing to people with (M = 2.91, SD = 0.581). This is somewhat an
unexpected response from the respondents as it is assumed that the locals enjoy something
that they can interact with, be it passive or active.

Table 6: Characteristics Level Agreement About the Street Art
Characteristics meanª (M) Std. Deviation Indicatorᵇ
1. Audience enjoy and like its presence 3.52 .545 Strongly agree

2. Show history/culture/identity of 3.45 .663 Strongly agree
3. Should serve as a landmark 3.34 .652 Strongly agree

4. Should be created for the public 3.27 .629 Strongly agree

5. People can interact with it 2.91 .581 agree

From the study, the findings show that the people’s general perception about street art
is that the characteristics of street art essentially makes it part of the public daily life in the
city. This is the reason behind understanding and appreciating the public opinion of street art
in locality studies. Studying the similarities and differences between opinions of the public
allows an in-depth understanding of street art and its importance and contribution to the urban
environment to preserve our culture. The public generally have positive views about street art
in Pulau Pinang, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching. A majority of the respondent 90% agree that
the street art is important to preserve one’s culture. In addition, 23% of the respondent agreed
to the attractiveness (and City beautification of street art while 21%) of the respondent
genuinely appreciate the presence of street art in city. The space for people to learn the story
of a city is also important in creating a vibrant and conducive environment. Various activities
in the public space in the urban area will attract more people and tourist. Interactive street art
will also make the location as one of the to-go- place to visit. It is also discovered that urban
cities need some additional creative art to enrich the area as well as stimulating the
development of social, environment, and interactive street art. Throughout this study, it can be
concluded that the research has successfully achieved the research objectives which was set at
the beginning of the study. The research was able to identify and discuss various perception of
the public to preserve Malaysian culture through street art. However, as much as much this
study has examined the public perception of street art, there are still some limitations to this

This research was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia under the
Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS).


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