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Protecting the Heritage of Urban Art in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTIA - There is a rich culture of urban art in Buenos Aires and Graffitimundo, a grass roots organization which is made up of a group of urban artists, as well as those involved in the arts and media, is doing its utmost to protect the unique urban art heritage of the city.

They recently raised $36,000 through a kick starter fund raising project to produce a film entitled, ‘White Walls Say Nothing,’ which looks at urban art and activism in Buenos Aires. The film will also act as an archive as urban art is of course sometimes ephemere. Filming has already started and is due to be completed in July 2013.

The turbulent political and economic history of Buenos Aires has given it a unique, often symbiotic relationship with urban art and the artists that produce it. Iconic Mexican mural artists such as Diego Rivera have had an enormous impact on urban art not only in Argentina but in Latin America as a whole.

The origins of the Mexican muralist movement stemmed from political and social activism. However whilst the Mexican muralist movement was spreading through Latin America the repressive regime at the time meant that large scale public pieces which epitomized the movement were impossible in Buenos Airies.

However, no amount of repression could stop artists from expressing themselves and by the 1920s, stencil art was flourishing in the city. The ‘origins’ of this form of urban art are often wrongly attributed to Paris and New York. However, Buenos Aires was already ‘showcasing’ stencil art long before it became a ‘fashionable’ form of urban art elsewhere.

In 2001 the tragic economic crisis which hit Argentina as a whole lead to an explosion in urban art in the city of Buenos Aires, as the population vented its anger and frustration at the extreme poverty which began to pervade the city. Some artists felt that the sheer amount of political graffiti at this time was having a negative atmosphere on the already depressed Buenos Aires.  Artist’s collectives such as DOMA began creating more positive forms of urban art on the walls such as enormous colourful cartoon characters.

One of the aims of Graffitimundo is to facilitate an interaction and exchange between the inhabitants of Buenos Aires and the art which lives and breathes on its walls. It should be no surprise then that Graffitimundo runs stencil workshops to allow participants to create this form of urban art themselves. The number of participants in the workshops is limited to enable a maximum exchange between participants and those facilitating the workshops. The cost is reasonable, at $60 for four hours with material included.

Graffitimundo also organises urban art tours in the city, for visitors or those already living there. However one of its most worthwhile projects must be that which involves Conviven, a non profit organization based in Ciudad Oculta that promotes comprehensive social community development of children. In Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas there are approximately 500 Shanty Towns where acute poverty is rife.

As part of their social projects with the children living in these shanty towns, Conviven provides a space for recreation, education, and other artistic activities. Graffitimundo takes the children on urban art tours, allowing them to have first hand experience of the art in the city, ‘their city.’

Graffitimundo also facilitates workshops where the children and artists create urban art together (as seen in  photos 1 - 3).

Urban art has more than often been used to channel frustration and anger at social divides or racism, with Graffitimundo it is used to bring people together!

Photo 1: courtesy of Other, Jaz, and Ever

Photos 2 & 3: courtesy of Graffitimundo