This week we introduce a new interview section into our website called “Meeting Point”, a conversation with people connected to street art without being an artist. The point is to show and give some credit/support to the people behind street art festivals, shows, events and galleries.
Our first guest is the person behind big festivals in Portugal, such as Wool and Estau, and also the co-founder of the amazing iniciative called Lata 65.
– Introduce yourself to us. (include titles, origin, location, some basic facts about you).What made you start organizing street art festivals?
Lara Seixo Rodrigues _ I was born in 1979 in Covilhã, a small town in the interior of Portugal, really close to Spain. Having grown up between two cultures and customs is something that makes me proud and justifies the constant and endless curiosity that leads me. Which led me to Lisbon to study Architecture (FA-UTL, 2004), to specialize in Real Estate Development (FA-UTL, 2006) and where I practiced professionally (under my own name) for more than a decade.
My stay in Lisbon, also sparked my interest in other artistic areas and intensified one of ever, Graffiti and Street Art. I used to follow all events, meetings, streets dynamics. And in 2011, with my brother (with whom I share this same passion) and my sister in law, we decided that was time to organize a festival in our home town, In Covilhã. For us, this city, it’s history, morphology, etc was the right place to make something of this kind. We applied to some punctual funding’s for arts, from the government and was a surprise when we got the results. The 1st edition of WOOL, in 2011, when all over the country you didn’t had any other festival of street art, was quite a challenge, with great expectations, but the result was amazing… in the city, for the country and for all arts community.
– What is street art for you? What impact has it had in your life?
That’s the (always) really difficult question and answer, what is street art for me. The truth is that I don’t have a close and perfect answer. Is not supposed to know why you like something so much, or explain clearly a passion. The truth is that I just felt, since that 1st edition of WOOL, that this was the time of project, of ‘work’ I would like to make every single day.
A couple years ago, talking with an investigator about this professional change, from architecture to curatorship / consulting / producing street art events, I just figured out that what I loved in my work as an architect was the possibility of improving people life, the social part of it. The way you can change something in the city / community environment with elements, actions, etc. What I’m doing at this moment is exactly the same, working these same aspects, but using a different tool, a different instrument, using art (and street art), which is faster and enables me deeper (social) results.
I think, at this point you can image the impact that street art and that 1st edition of WOOL had in my life, that changed it for ever. From a stable professional situation (with some awards in the middle) to the discovery and construction of a (unknown) profession in Portugal (to be aware that the phenomenon of urban art in our country is something recent and much under construction and structuring).
If that was the initial impact and strictly personal one, the truth is that in every single project I organize, the impact (I work to and had been able to achieve) is really strong and powerful. I think this is or should be the process and result when you work in and for communities. We need to work the ego of the people of certain region, city or community you are working at. We need to make people recognize themselves in their territory and this is just possible when you work all phases of a project closely with them. All these processes have a huge impact in my life, because I can see it also in the life of the people with whom I’ve been working to and for.
– What made you start organizing street art festivals? Which street artists do you admire most and why?
I admire a lot of artworks, the creativity, the technique, the messages and all kinds of aspects involved in the analyses and in the act of loving a piece / mural / installation. But what I admire most, is the person behind an artwork. The values, the strength, the resilience, the humility, the truth, the ability to engage in social causes and use their visibility to expose social, political, etc; problems. It’s the person and not the art just for the art.
And I really don’t like to mention names. The ones I admire, they know it!
– Street art in the last few years has had a big impact on society, a lot of artists being in the spotlight and trying to make a carrier out of it. What do you think about this evolution?
I think is the natural evolution of any art movement. First illegal or neglected and then the gradual acceptance and interest will generate the demand and its commercial value and in this way growing.
When I started working in this field, 4 years ago, in Portugal we only had 3 or 4 people living from ‘doing street art’. Today you have lots of people making a carrier in this area. It’s the natural evolution and sometimes, in this process some aspects are simply lost, like the illegal part (doing things spontaneously on the street) or the social responsibility.
I would like to see more artists engaged to social causes, social projects and here I need to mention an artist, Swoon, which is developing projects deeply committed to social causes.
– Which cities do you think have the biggest activity and influence in the global street art scene?
The influence and activity in this field can be measure in different levels, but, concerning my interests, I would say Miami, Berlin, Stavanger or Barcelona. The fact is that I tend to be more attentive to specific projects (worldwide) or artists, than cities. Because in this way I can better analyse all the aspects that interest me in a certain project (planning, process, result). There are small projects in places that you don’t even relate to street art, that have huge impacts in the communities and influence me.
– What are you working on nowadays?
At the moment, I’m looking for what was the year of 2016 of MISTAKER MAKER and preparing the 2017.
We will have new editions of ESTAU | Estarreja Arte Urbana, MURALIZA | Cascais Mural Art Festival and WOOL. LATA 65 | urban art workshop for seniors will be touring all over the country and abroad .
We are working a couple of partnerships for next year and some new projects will see the light of day, but still secret (sorry!).
– What is the biggest challenge when organising a festival?
For me the biggest challenge will be always: not summarize and reduce a festival to the finished walls or to the artists. We must engage all the community in the process, since day 1. And at this point, the lecture you make from a certain street, neighbourhood or city is essential and crucial. This can predict the good or bad result, the real and longstanding result of any project.
– Do you remember any occasion in which something went horribly wrong?
Twice and for the same reason: problems with the lifting platforms Both this year and both walls that after were recognized as some of the best walls of 2016. Really thank the artists for not giving up when the scenario was really bad.
– Do you have a wild project that you dream of achieving some day?
Yes! One specifically it’s been in the drawer for 3 years now. Hope soon it will see the light of day. But the truth is that I have always a lot of projects and different ideas in my mind.
– What are your plans for the future?
Work, work, work!
-Is there a specific thought or message you would like to pass to our audience out there?
Just go to the streets and really feel it.