Amongst the hilltops of the Chilean coast you’ll find the vibrant and effervescent city of Valparaiso, where stories of grandeur and opulence, of dictatorships and of urban revival still snake through it’s narrow stairwells. Valparaiso, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, has positioned itself as one of the urban art capitals of the world. Where merchants once sold textiles and tools you’ll now find ambitious street artists painting sky high murals.
The colors, creativity and community involvement of Valparaiso’s urban art scene have been used as ways to represent progress and the revitalization of this once port city. In 1973, Chile was under a dictatorship which banned any political artwork. Artists would risk their lives secretly painting amongst the many alleyways as a way to have a voice in the resistance. This art, although often covered by the military nearly immediately, stood as portraits of hope until Chile returned to democracy in 1990. Quickly after, Chile made street art legal as a mechanism of expression and of liberation.
With 25 murals throughout the city, the street art of Valparaiso not only attracts visitors but boosts the overall energy within. The art gives a canvas to tell a story and to provide an identity for the people of Valparaiso. The community organization “Valparaiso en Colores” works to reinvigorate local neighborhoods through street art. The slogan for the “Valparaiso en Colores” is,
“Man does not only live on art”.
This is used as a call to action to care for the people of the city. It’s a plea to not just fill the city with color but to bring people together to take pride in the place that they live. For the organization this means a care of the environment and attention to sustainability. It’s about setting up green spaces, cleaning the streets, inspiring the youth and caring for the elderly. It’s giving the proper environment for art to thrive through the willingness of the community. The art is first and foremost for the people of the city and all generations of the community are taken into consideration before art hits the wall.
Yes, Valparaiso is full a perfectly instagrammable moments from piano key staircases to neon representations of urban life, but there are many benefits beyond the eye of the visitor and our cameras from taking an urban art tour! As visitors, we give more power to these communities and encourage the beautification of places like Valpraiso. The benefits of urban art can be seen across the globe at it’s gives a voice and a sense of ownership to destinations. It is often used as a method of nonviolent expression and can represent a population, as seen during the dictatorship in Valpraiso, or spark a conversation towards peace, as seen in Northern Ireland. Throughout the globe, cries for justice, for equality and for freedom along with images of inspiration can be found sprayed across the walls throughout cities and their suburbs. The popularity of urban art continues to grow worldwide as visitors from all over the world come to visit these vibrant walls and put their money and interest into otherwise less known economies. Many of the areas that are becoming art havens are in rougher neighborhoods, old industrial areas or amongst abandoned buildings, giving these areas a new boost of life and a better diversification of income within cities. This can also be seen in Santiago, Chile where they turned a rough neighborhood into a living art museum (join us for our ‘Santiago: Residents of Art Street tour’ to find out more).
Urban Adventures works with the local NGO, Colours de Valpraiso, to empower artists and awaken and rejuvenate local communities with beauty, color and expression through street art and green spaces. Our Urban Adventures tour, Colours of Valparaiso and the Mural Workshop and Neighborhood Walk , invites travellers to discover the best street art in Valparaiso while giving them the opportunity to meet some of the local artists that are supported by the NGO while learning about their initiatives to continue to transform the streets to add value to the quality of live for the local community.
As a traveler our appreciation for expression, art and our willingness to explore off these off beaten path destinations benefits us and these local artists. Turns out we can help the world by liking cool art!