“This work of art can make a colorful difference in the lives of local individuals, the community and the city of Rio. It has the potential of working as a catalyst in the processes of social renewal and change” said Dre Urhahn, one of the Favela Painting artists. Realization of the artwork is largely driven by the inhabitants of Santa Marta. 25 local youth have been trained as painters, providing for their own income and being responsible for turning their own neighborhood into a colorful monument. This grassroots method of working has proven to be successful in earlier projects, and gives the local community empowerment, pride and color. The local team is complemented by three painters from another favela, Vila Cruzeiro, where two of the previous projects by Haas & Hahn took place.
The project was paused during the catastrophic rains, that hit Rio de Janeiro so hard, killed hundreds and left thousands homeless. The team of painters was sent to the affected areas to help clear the rubble. The vulnerability of these communities and the situation the inhabitants sometimes live in, make it clear that they need all attention they can get. They see the art project not only as a way to beatify, but mostly to attract attention to them and their neighbourhood in a positive way.
The project has thus far been financed through grants and donations, but a co-operation with the dutch paint company AkzoNobel might open new doors. A meeting with their inspiring Managing Director Tex Gunning, showed they had a shared vision. “They wanted to give color to the community”, Dre recalls, “and we wanted to give art to the community. I see no reason why we cannot recreate this idea across 300 houses, 3000 houses, whether its in Rio, Johannesburg, Mumbai or anywhere in the world.” But first plans are to return to Rio to realize the dream that started the whole project and of which Praça Cantão can be seen as a start: painting an entire favela!