Art And Culture

Buenos Aires Fights Vandalism With Street Art

Buenos Aires Fights Vandalism With Street ArtBuenos Aires Fights Vandalism With Street Art

Around the corner from a bland grey street in the working class Tres de Febrero suburb of Buenos Aires, a blue boat starts to take form on a wall.

Street artist Andres Rotundo Fraga, wearing a green overall and armed with a brush and some acrylic paint, has started a three-day project aimed at reviving an apartment wall damaged by indecipherable graffiti, reports AFP.

“The walls were damaged by vandals, by rude people,” says 80-year old Edith Campelo, who lives in the building.

“We have no money to paint so the municipality kindly sent us this great artist so we can embellish the wall.”

Though graffiti is illegal in Buenos Aires, it is typically allowed if the building owners give their permission.

Sometimes, the government or local authorities fund the murals themselves as a decorated wall tends to remain in better condition than a plain one.

“It is in poor or middle-class neighborhoods that people take care of a mural as one of their own,” says Diego Silva, coordinator of the ART3 public project that funds graffiti work in the Tres de Febrero municipality.

“Four or five year-old murals can be damaged by the weather and the deterioration of the wall, but never because they’ve been vandalized. The murals are fully respected,” he adds, as he stands in one of the most impoverished areas of the municipality, in front of an impeccable mural of a red lighthouse.

ART3 and other government or non-government projects in the city want to fight vandalism with street art, thereby making residents more mindful of their surroundings and improving their quality of life.

“They’re not just drawings. From the time we first started we always said it was something for people to participate in,” says Silva of the district’s 400 murals.

In Europe, despite some artists gaining international fame like Banksy, graffiti continues to be largely stigmatized and synonymous with vandalism.

But in Buenos Aires the opposite is true. The Argentine capital has become one of the world’s centers of street art with thousands of murals decorating houses, schools and even churches.

Muralists receive entire blocks or 25-meter-high facades to express themselves using oil or acrylic paint and aerosol spray.

Festivals celebrate their work and some urban artists like Martin Ron or Fio Silva have been asked to paint abroad.

“The murals are here to surprise, to add pleasure, art, culture and joy to the public space,” says Patricio di Stefano, the sub-secretary of public space for the city of Buenos Aires, which spends more than 60,000 dollars a year commissioning graffiti.

Graffiti tour companies have also started to appear, showing tourists the city’s great outdoor museum.

Some murals feature local idols, like football star Carlos Tevez, whose face is famously painted across a building in Fuerte Apache, his poor Buenos Aires neighborhood.