You’ll know when you stumble upon one of the calles anointed by Proyecto Persiana. After blocks of old buildings, beautiful buildings that look a bit tired and neglected, like architectural homecoming queens at 5am — riots of color will suddenly appear. Wild murals, from the feral and psychedelic to the soft and whimsical tattoo persianas all the way down the city blocks; fireworks of art and life where there once was nothing.
Proyecto Persiana was founded by friends who wanted to do something different for the city, something for everyone and they mean everyone to enjoy. They clarified to me they have only three hard rules: no politics, no religion, no football.
Their credo? It’s a thoughtful three-parter, as one of the organizers Lucia Arrocha told me: First, to transform the streets of Buenos Aires through urban art. Second, to change the way graffiti is perceive and remove the stigmatizing association between graffiti and vandalism. And finally, give great artists a voice and space where they express themselves and eventually be able to generate an income through their work.
The project is about to celebrate their sixth edition this weekend, but back in 2015 their first attempt was met with skepticism by some. “We owe what Persiana is today to the first brave owners of Libertad 0 – 100 that had faith and welcomed us into their block. Owners in general are usually skeptical at first, but once they see who we are, and why we do this they come around and give us their full support. It’s a lot easier for us now that we have an amazingly solid and diverse body of work, the owners can have a fuller idea of what we’re about… There are few things as rewarding and seeing the look on people’s faces as they walk around. It seems as if they were exploring their street for the first time.”
Science and color theory have long backed these observations. Studies on color have linked it to mood — from the calming effect of pink prison cells to the orange hunger-inducing hues of restaurants to lusty reds. Proyecto Persiana is not the first of its kind to employ such methods—initiatives to revitalize cities through murals and pops of color have been famous for a long time, perhaps most notably with Brazilian favelas being made over in rainbow brights that exploded onto the internet. But always the reaction is the same: awe, cheer, most of all pride. Or in the words of one passerby caught by Humans of New York: “We’re all victims of the architect. Architecture is the only art that you can’t help but feel. You can avoid paintings, you can avoid music, and you can even avoid history. But good luck getting away from architecture.”
I had the opportunity to speak more with Lucia Arrocha about the project, which will be painting the block of Paraná 200 this Sunday.
Why did you choose this particular neighborhood?
We chose the area between streets Rivadavia, Corrientes, Libertad and Callao. We chose this quadrant because it is a really commercial area with tons of foot traffic. It is a true example of the essence of old school Buenos Aires: breathtaking architecture that has withered into a sigh of gray. These streets are in serious need of maintenance and most of the steel curtains are vandalized.
How do you get the store owners to agree to participate?
As organizers we go door to door, shop to shop, introducing ourselves and the project. We do not paint anything unless we have the owner’s permission, otherwise we’re no better than the guys that vandalized the neighborhood. It is vital for us to be as respectful and neat as possible, this movement is for everyone’s enjoyment.
And the artists?
We find our artists online and by word of mouth. We work through our social media pages, inviting artists to write us and volunteer to paint. Luckily we’ve always had a ton of stellar talent send us their portfolios.
And there you have it, for those who want to have a good time and witness art in the making, drag yourself downtown on Sunday and feel the buena onda of making this pretty little town just a little bit more beautiful.
Paint the town.
Sunday, 9am to 11pm