By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Copa Graffiti (the Graffiti Cup), the project that has transformed fifteen MetrôRio stations in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), is another boost for the city’s image as a street art-friendly metropolis. At the same time, the project promises to instill a new sense of pride in the neighborhoods surrounding the new works of art.
MetrôRio sponsored the project, providing assistance to the street artists who competitively painted over a ten-day period, ending today (October 31st), at fifteen stations stretching from São Cristóvão to Pavuna. The winner of the graffiti cup will be announced in November.
A recent visit to some of the participating stations, with co-organizer/ curator/ and local graffiti artist Airá Ocrespo, was eye-opening, in more ways the one. The work being done is massive, and, owing to the participation of some 120 local graffiti artists, amazingly beautiful.
The project is a great aesthetic success, turning once blighted areas into murals bounding with colors and forms. Yet, for Ocrespo, and the others involved, the project is something much more than just another painted wall in the city.
“Each of the fifteen walls has a theme based on the history of the area. The writers researched the region’s past and created murals that told a story,” said Ocrespo. “This is a social project intended to reinvigorate the pride these residents have in their neighborhoods.”
Ocrespo has been involved in the project for months, he, along with local MC Marcello Dughettu, invited the fifteen teams to participate in the project. Though big names in the local scene are participating – Fleshbeck Crew, Smael Vagner, Anarkia Boladona, and one of Rio’s graffiti pioneers, Acme, among them – it is a great chance for younger writers to hone their craft.
“It is has been a great opportunity for us to work so openly on a wall of this magnitude. Has enhanced our teamwork, and gave us a chance to develop our own talents,” says Tick, a young writer working with Acme.
Well-known artist, Toz of Fleshbeck Crew, shares Tick’s thoughts on the project, “This event very interesting from a social point-of-view, it also motivates the new generation of great graffiti artists.”
Acme, who started working on the walls in the city in 1996, has worked on big projects both in Brazil and internationally. Yet, for him, and most others who discussed the project, Copa Graffiti is a more important and rewarding project.
“This project is bridging a lot of gaps that continue to cause problems in these areas,” says Acme. “We have already seen that the work we are doing [at Tomás Coehlo station] is bridging the gap between the older residents in the area and the younger. People come out and talk with us, all ages, about what the painting means, older people tell stories, is a unifying work.”
Acme also mentions that the project is helping bridge the gap between the artist and the community, “People are proud to see this work. Instills more pride in the neighborhood.”
Projects like this tend to be stepping stone, a starting point, for a change of perspective in these areas, which, absent some type of draw, remain largely forgotten by the rest of the city. In Tiragem, malnourished adolescents, some battling Crack addiction, stop to look at the painting, to talk with the artists about the work.
The curiosity is not only in the colors, the forms but in the message, in the history the murals tell. “Pride in your hood is one of the main goals of this project. This starts with a better understanding of the history of the area,” says a smiling Ocrespo. “This is a first step in a bigger vision for North Zone.”