Valparaiso, Chile: City of Art
Many cities merit the descriptor “artsy” by offering an abundant selection of artistic experiences for visitors such as galleries and museums, public sculptures and street-performers: evidences of an artistic population, or at the very least, a population with appreciation for the arts.
Recently I found myself in a city that claims its sense of art in an even louder and all-consuming display. Valparaiso, Chile doesn’t simply share its love of art inside the walls of museums or neatly displayed in parks and plazas. Valparaiso paints this love of art all over its walls and buildings, or, in fact, on any surface to which paint may adhere. I saw doorways, stair-wells and vendor’s trucks all transformed into murals.
I fight not to describe these murals as “graffiti,” because there is something much more complete and purposeful about them. These are not names scrawled in bright, cartoonish letters across someone else’s property. These are masterpieces with bizarre and whimsical images that seem to decorate the city: to bring it beauty despite crumbling walls and awkward structures stacked randomly upon steep hillsides. Not only this, but they seem to tell some secret story of the city, or perhaps of the artist. One can only guess the meaning of the most bizarre paintings, displaying whimsical creatures or characters not quite human. Other murals display beautiful caricatures of the city itself.
Because of this unique display of murals, one can occupy a full day without entering a single building. I photographed houses and shops all day, climbing steep alleys of stone to watch the painted buildings scatter out around me. In the bright sunlight of the day, I was inspired to photograph as many of these murals as I could. And in the evening, it compelled me to scribble drawings of my own all over the pages of my journal. The art of the city pushed me towards making art of my own. Perhaps this is the real test of how “artsy” a city is.
Caroline Yoder Macomber is the Arts Editor for Wandering Educators. She is traveling the world soaking up all that each culture and wilderness can offer. You can find more of her musings at www.carolinetakesflight.wordpress.com or tap into the thoughts she has to share with children learning about their world at www.connecttheclass.wordpress.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Caroline Yoder Macomber