Grad Students

Morgan Wells

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Morgan Wells is a passionate supporter of the arts, having worked in the trenches of the visual arts and music business before joining UCLA's Department of Sociology as a graduate student in 2008.

Since then, her interest in the business of the arts and underlying theories of aesthetic value, commensuration and valorization have deepended, providing a foundation for further exploration.

After three years of ethnographic research within the urban graffiti subculture(s) in New York, Los Angeles, San José, Costa Rica and London, Wells' research has now turned to the formal art world and it's consecration of "street art." These two segments of data are now coming together in a book project briefly described below.

Fields of Study

Production of Culture, Economic Sociology, Urban Sociology, Ethnography, Sociology of the Arts, Subcultures, Youth, Crime


Street World -- Art World: The Story of Graffiti's Fine Art Metamorphosis

    This book examines the social world of graffiti as it intertwines with the formal art world, creating new relationships, different understandings of the value of art, and an increasing influence on visual culture permeating popular and fine arts alike. Using rich ethnographic description, content analysis and long form interviews with collectors, artists and art world professionals, this project tells the story of graffiti’s journey into fine art, weaving cultural and economic analysis within an intimate narrative of this complex social world.

    Using the specific case of graffiti vandalism’s development as a fine art genre, the aim of the book is to explore     not only the social world of graffiti in the streets and related illegal public art, but to also examine the implications for theories of genre development and the value of art in the digital age. What started out as purely vandalism developed into more creative and interesting visual offerings because of competition for reputation in the streets. Such innovation resulted in attention from exogenous institutions and general audiences as well as later innovations in content that have now manifested as a complex constellation of social relationships constituting a new movement in the art world.


PhD, UCLA Sociology, 2014

M.A. Sociology, University of California Los Angeles, 2010

B.S. Music Business, University of Colorado, 2003, summa cum laude