When many people think of cities, they picture concrete, skyscrapers, road work and steel. The truth is, however, there are many cities around the world with a more vibrant and colorful atmosphere. In fact, some of these places are so creative and beautiful, they are a work of art in themselves.
Deep blue structures reside next to loud pink and sunflower yellow houses, as hot orange and rich spring purple buildings sit across the street. Being able to see this fusion of colors in one place is reason enough to visit each of these unique cities.
For a more visual idea of colorful cities around the world, check out the gallery. Have a favorite colorful destination of your own? Tell us in the comments.
In the urban landscape of Buenos Aires, Argentina, fauna is fantastically diverse. I love watching the human wildlife. My favorite species is the callejero, or street circus performer. In parks around the city, they set up their slack lines. They hang their long, silk telas from trees to practice aerial dance. Juggling pins fly. The callejeros spend hours in the parks, simply teaching and learning circus arts.
Each year, callejeros from Buenos Aires and all over Latin America convene outside the city. The event is called La Convención Argentina de Circo, Payasos y Espectaculos Callejeros (Argentinian Convention of Circus, Clowns and Street Performer Shows), or La Convención for short. It’s a grand affair that gains a bigger crowd each year. The November 2011 Convención attracted around 900 participants.
The event was founded in 1996, when the circo nuevo (new circus) phenomenon began to grow in Argentina, mirroring movements and conventions that were going on in Europe’s bohemias.
“La Convención was created to satisfy the need for space. We wanted a space for meeting, learning, exchange and union – by artists and for artists,” comments El Payaso Chacovachi, one of the founding clowns. That first year, 250 people and one small circus tent started something special.
Now, fifteen years later, this has become one of the greatest street-level shows on earth (or at least in the southern hemisphere). La Convención has always been a five-day marathon of workshops, contests, parades and performances. On day one, the big tents go up – two real circus tents.
Flocks of circus artists arrive with their own tents, costumes and juggling pins. A small village springs up in the grassy sports field complex that the organizers have reserved. Dining options: a food tent with lovingly prepared vegetarian fare, or public grills for DIY barbeque. There’s time to decide – dinner doesn’t start until 10 p.m. at the earliest.
Ambling through the tent village, I feel lucky. My Porteño friends with callejero tendencies had tipped me off about the gathering. Word of mouth is the only kind of publicity for this deliberately non-commercial event. I stand out a bit as a foreigner with no circus attire, but nobody minds. I gravitate toward the hula-hoopers and the swapping of skills begins.
According to the printed program, a schedule of organized events is set for each day. “Jueves, 1600hrs: Charla, debate y mesa redonda (Thursday, 4 p.m.: discussion, debate and round table).” This is in jest. The first three days pass in a dreamscape of loose workshops by day and drum circles by night. Artists savor this time as a chance to learn, teach and grow their talents.
Every imaginable skill from the school of new circus is represented – the juggling of anything from pins to discs and cigar boxes, contact juggling, unicycling, staff spinning, diabolos, poi, hoops, aerial dancing, trapeze and improvised, new forms of object manipulation, balance and strength. Art meets play. Spontaneity reigns.
The last two days – a Saturday and Sunday – are the culmination of La Convención. Saturday is the grand parade. Everybody unpacks their best and finest circus attire. They achieve a “new circus” look by mixing classic elements like wigs and noses with contemporary design. Red, black and white stripes are everywhere. Tutus ruffle. Leotards and leggings are worn tight. I watch two clowns paint each other’s faces, matching each other.
The nuevo circo clowns pile into buses, cheering and playing whatever instruments they can find – tiny charango guitars, kazoos, melodicas and accordions – in an exodus toward the city of Monte Grande. They take to the streets.
Hours of parades degenerate into a massive street party. A foam machine covers everyone with a layer of white. Paper plates of shaving cream appear out of nowhere, suddenly widespread. Pie in the face! Soaked and soapy, I join the chaos.
Back at the circus grounds that night, all the face paint and foam has been washed off. Another party erupts in the Big Tent. A brassy ska band keeps everyone dancing into the small hours of the morning.
A final big day is ahead. The best of the professional performances have been saved for Sunday. The grand finale: shows by the most prestigious circus schools and companies in Argentina, like Compañia Colectivo Xibalba and Escuela Le Lido.
On the bus ride back to Buenos Aires, I read the event booklet cover to cover. I find this:
Founder’s Manifesto [translated]
“Clowns, circus people, and street performer artists are a special stock within the world of professional artists, and I call professional anyone who lives by their profession.
Because of their particular characteristics, as half artist and half foraging go-getter, and since they clearly mix their lives with their art, they are associated with freedom within the collective imagination.
Their freedom is physical (they generally work traveling), economic (the money they earn is directly associated with their ability and effort), and psychic (they don’t have to be the best, they’re happy just being). This freedom allows them to take the reigns of their own lives. So, they happily wander the world without borders, full of limitations, creativity and courage, actualizing themselves as artists and as people.
La Convención is designed to celebrate these lives, and also to learn, to familiarize, to inform ourselves, to enjoy. Most importantly, we come to celebrate once a year for six days, creating our own utopian world full of free and sovereign ideals.”
New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Melbourne are just a few of the cities known for street art. But that doesn’t mean the streets aren’t being spray painted, wheat pasted and stenciled in other cities – and more importantly, it doesn’t lessen the messages these artists are trying to get across. One such place is Ecuador, where graffiti tells the stories of the state of life and what it’s like to live in the country. Locals in the country’s capital city have a saying that there are “no blank walls in Quito,” and for the most part that’s true. Even in those instances where there is a blank wall, it probably won’t be long before it turns into a canvas. Click through the image gallery below to see a collection of street art images from across Ecuador (including some from Baños de Agua Santa, where Jessica Festa recently documented graffiti). Whether you consider street art a nice artistic touch or an act of vandalism, these images show a unique perspective.
Over the past two months a group of 20 muralists from around the world have been coming together to revamp vacant walls in a Baltimore neighborhood. Although not currently well trodden by visitors, the neighborhood is full of theaters and art galleries and was recently dubbed the Station North Arts & Entertainment District in hopes that it would become the new cultural heart of Baltimore. The ambitious mural project, Open Walls Baltimore, is already sparking national dialogue and will hopefully enliven public spaces enough that visitors are attracted to the area. Artists leaving their mark on the neighborhood have come from faraway places such as Buenos Aires, Montreal, Capetown, and Kiev, as well as several homegrown muralists from Baltimore and nearby New York City. The video above gives an idea of the spirit of the project, which is being curated by street artist Gaia. All of the murals should be completed by this Friday, May 25, when a celebration will take place throughout the district.
Baltimore has a long history of promoting public art. Outside of Open Walls Baltimore, there are two- and three-story murals painted on more than 100 buildings throughout the city. Of course, Baltimore isn’t the only city known for its murals – to view a sampling of a wide range of public art check out the Mural Locator, a self-funded website working to chart amazing murals throughout the world. So far, more than 500 murals have been mapped since the website began in 2010.
Buenos Aires in Argentina has one of the most vibrant art scenes in all the world. Walking down the streets of the city, you’ll see colorful, political and passionate works of graffiti art on every corner. If you’re looking for a truly unique way to experience the art scene in Buenos Aires, one option is to visit the city’s only bar and urban art gallery in one, Hollywood in Cambodia.
Hollywood in Cambodia opened in 2006, when the owners of Post Street Bar decided to do something different with the space. They approached a number of stencil artists and asked them to help paint the interior of the bar. While the artists and owners got along well, the artists wanted compensation, as the bar was a commercial space. Because the owners didn’t have the money, they came up with a different plan. They offered the artists three rooms at the back of the bar, rent free, to use however they pleased. From there, the artists covered every inch of the bar and terrace with intricate stencil art. One room became a permanent gallery and shop, and the two others were transformed into temporary exhibition spaces. This is what visitors can experience today.The gallery is run by six artists: Stencil Land, Malatesta, GG & NN from bs.as.stncl, Fede Minuchin and Tester from rundontwalk. They run the gallery together, opening it from Tuesday to Sunday, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. About 8 to 10 exhibitions are run each year, with works being showcased from a range of urban artists and art collectives.
While an art gallery being housed in a bar is, in itself, rare in Buenos Aires, there are other factors that make the space truly unique. First of all, it’s the only gallery in the city to focus solely on urban art. And, unlike other galleries, they are free from commercial pressures.
“They don’t have rent or bills to pay, so they can do whatever they want with the space,” explains Jonny Robson of graffitimundo, a main supporter of the venue. “They can take risks and showcase unconventional art, without worrying if it’s going to sell or not.”
What’s really interesting when you walk into the space is how hard it is to tell where the gallery starts and where the bar stops. All of the bar space – the outside walls, terrace and even the toilets – have been covered in art. This is because the artists use the bar as an extension of the gallery space, running workshops and video screenings. Understandably, the bar ends up being a popular place to hangout for the artists and their friends. In fact, exhibition opening nights showcasing cutting edge art often end up becoming wild parties.
“It’s a very special place, and very unique for Buenos Aires,” says Robson. “To be honest, I’m not sure if there’s anywhere quite like it anywhere else in the world.”