During photographer Flor da Valle’s tour, I was in awe of the large scale murals in Buenos Aires and was also surprised by how supportive the local community and government were of the projects.
On my 21st birthday, I was originally supposed to be in Brazil soaking up the sun and drinking caipirinhas by the beach. Sadly, 2020 changed everyone’s plans and I instead found myself celebrating from home. So, I decided to try one of Airbnb’s online abroad experiences to bring some light and creativity into my home. I had so many options to choose from and eventually decided on an experience in Buenos Aires to explore their exuberant street art scene. Flor da Valle, an Argentinian photographer and curator, led the experience and was such a knowledgeable and kindhearted guide. Joining us was a couple from Russia who was just as passionate as we were about learning about a new art scene across the world.
Flor currently lives in the Palermo neighborhood which is the hub of the street art scene in Buenos Aires along with La Boca. After the 2001 economic crisis in Argentina, young artists flocked to Palermo to fill the streets with art and hope. Then followed the flourishing street art scene in La Boca which is known for its strong Italian immigrant community and the colorful European style houses. I really liked how Flor started the tour talking about the history of street art and graffiti and the strong stigma the art form first had. In Buenos Aires, for the most part, the bad “illegal” stigma surrounding graffiti/street art seems to have faded and instead the diverse and accessible decorations for the public is highly encouraged. This encouragement is further seen in the Color Buenos Aires Festival that invites international and local street artists to make their mark around the city. An intricate work that came from the festival is a mural by Milu Correch of a man beating a drum to the traditional Murga music, most commonly heard during Carnaval.
During Flor’s tour, I was in awe of the large scale murals that covered the whole city and was also surprised by how supportive the Buenos Aires community and government were of the projects. Specifically the work by artist, Mart Aire, caught my eye because of his childlike characters with precise features that look almost like they were drawn with sharpie, but in fact were done with spray paint. One of my personal favorites that Flor presented to us was the Buenos Aires “Paste Up” wall. This wall is a jumble of different artists with very unique styles that all come together to paste up positive and hopeful messages or images using water mixed with flour. It is such a temporal and beautiful space where paste ups come and go. I can’t even begin to imagine what witnessing it in person must be like.
At the end of Flor’s virtual tour of the colorful city, she invited us to do an art activity with her that was related to the origins of street art. We channeled the one and only, Keith Haring. As inspired by the 1989 Pisa Mural, we learned how to mimic his characters holding a heart. Other than the base form of the people and heart, Flor told us to decorate it however we would like. My sister stuck to colored pencils with light shading, my mom did orange and blue complimentary colors, and I created a 1980s neon color palette. The overall experience was so uplifting, especially after not being able to travel or even visit a museum for so long. I realized that the internet is full of possibilities around the globe where you can still connect with other people from everywhere. I just needed to put in a little bit more effort. To make new friends and artistic creations, I would highly recommend this Airbnb online experience. #TravelFromHome if it is the safest thing for you to do right now.
“I don’t think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it.” – Keith Haring