by Jessie Maguire
A lot of the street art in Cochabamba is inspiring, thought-provoking, or at least interesting to look at. The style is often different to what you’ll see in other areas of the world, and it’s a source of pride both to the artists and to the people whose culture the art represents.
This week’s interviews were enlightening – it seems anyone can get involved in street art in Cochabamba, although some experience will help make the ride easier. If you can sketch out a simple idea on paper, it can be transferred to a wall. Spray paint skills not necessary!
Mex has also been sponsored countless times to paint in Europe, the U.S.A and all over South America. Mex has been designing artwork for the street since he was 13. At that age, he was interested in tagging the streets and doing pieces without permission here and in Mexico, but after 17 he decided he was sick of getting his cans confiscated, and worse.
As he puts it, “After 17, I started knocking on people’s doors, and politely asking if I could work on their wall. But they said no. They said they didn’t know what I was going to do, so I realized I needed to take photos of my work with me, designs on paper. Then they understood, they listened and said yes.”
What Is Street Art?
For Mex, street art should be subversive. It should come from the need to express your take on a political situation, comment on culture or society, or communicate your admiration for a superhero or a historic figure that inspires you. For Mex, graffiti is social interaction.
We also interviewed Fernando Garcia this week. Fernando is one of the founders of projecto mARTadero, a nonprofit that runs an urban art project that allows artists from Bolivia and beyond to work on street art projects in Cochabamba. El mARTadero was originally a slaughterhouse, but it has been transformed into a cultural space. It’s now a cultural space where music, art and other events are held, on the southwest side of the city center.
For Garcia, street artists’ work is their contribution to the city, and one of the most accessible and democratic types of contemporary art.
Is Cochabamba a Good Place to Do Street Art?
The conclusion seems to be yes. In fact, as Mex told us, “Cochabamba took third place in a ranking of cities in South America that make good places to do street art and graffiti.” He told us that it’s pretty difficult to join a crew, but he’s taken volunteers to the mARTadero and painted with them in the city.
The mARTadero’s Bienal de Arte Urbano (BAU) program allows artists and others interested in getting involved in street art projects to get out into the city all year round, and it’s free.
In 2010, they started providing workshops about urban art and went on to launch the first biennial urban art event in Bolivia, when artists arrived from different countries and storm out into the city to paint.
The BAU project’s original aim was to showcase the potential that urban art has, and they now use the Villa Coronilla area primarily, getting permission from home owners in the region and creating murals all year round, says Garcia.
Thanks to the biennial events, they now have over 40 murals all over the city, including at Elfec, El Correo. They also work on other types of intervention, using all the different types of urban art in the city.
Fernando Garcia also adds that anyone can get involved in the project, but they’ll need to do a design on paper so the home owner can okay it. However, if you’re a beginner and you’re nervous about what you might do, they can provide advice and guidance at the mARTadero, so be sure to ask about their clinics and other support available.
If you want to go solo in the city, Mex advises you to check out the provincias (the towns outside the city), and the north of the city. There are lots of walls in the north that have scruffy tags and unwanted marks on them, and you can often approach home owners with a design and they’ll let you make the wall prettier, says Mex. He’s worked on walls in Pacata Alta, Pacata Baja, as well as Tarata and Santivañez, further outside the city.
What About Materials?
Mex has recently opened a studio and shop that sells professional spray paint for anyone interested in using this media to good effect here in Cochabamba. You can buy cheap cans for between 11 and 16Bs. per can, depending on how many you buy at once, he assured us. However, there is no comparison when you look at the difference in quality between the two, and the ease of use. Mex’s cans cost 50-60Bs. per can, depending on how many you take away – but they last longer, are easier to use and you get a great finish. Mex is currently the only retailer selling these products, as well as books on street art, t-shirts with unique designs and various nozzle sizes.
At the mARTadero, they’ll also expect you to cover your materials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spray paint – although it does naturally lend itself to creating the effects normally associated with graffiti. Get in touch with mARTadero or MeXist for more info!
How to Get Involved
If you’re looking for inspiration, why not go on a bike art tour with Cecilia. She runs the tours in the city with great reviews. Check out the tour Facebook page here. After that, the mARTadero might be your next stop. Get in touch by phone, email or facebook.
So what inspires you? What will your contribution to the city be? There’s a lot of opportunity to get creative and express yourself here, decorating and beautifying the vertical spaces and making statements in our Ciudad Jardin. A large piece might take you 2-3 days on your own, but you could also collaborate with friends. Where will you begin?
Want to form a group and go out and do urban art together? The Sustainable Bolivia Social Club may be the perfect place to do that!
Thanks to Pablo Cartagena (MeXist) and Fernando Garcia for their time and permission to use their photos.
For more information about the mARTadero, check out the BAU project website here, and their Facebook page here.