Dutch artists, Dre Urhahn and Jeroen Koolhaas, seem to have given Rio de Janeiro's Santa Marta slum a bright and colorful make over transforming the main square into a kaleidoscope of color. The artists elicited the help of many of the local residents as well as "Coral," the Brazilian paint company in completing this painting project.
"We suddenly had this clear vision that it would actually be great to transform their living environment together with them into something artistic that would install pride in their life," an excited Urhahn told CNN and residents have also shown similar enthusiasm about the new image of the community. "It gives the community life!" said Edimar Marcelinho Franco, a resident who helped paint the thirty-four buildings. "People who come to the favela today say, 'Wow, how pretty.' It doesn't have that image of an ugly favela," he said.
Outside of all the excitement the bright colors have caused, I can't help but feel that this is very poor window dressing. Raw sewage runs down foot paths in the area, residents still live in abject poverty,there are still shootouts between drug gangs and the police and all the painting in the world will not change this. The residents need basic amenities like clean running water and electricity as well as job opportunities not a free paint job. Maybe if some of the youth had some other means of earning money, there might not be a need to enter the drug world and it is amazing that the Brazilian authorities have continued to over look this.
A quote I found particularly interesting is from Carlos Piazza, AkzoNobel's communication director for Latin America who reacted to the painting project with the following statement to CNN: "Color brings status...What divides the city, the formal city, from the informal city? Painting, that's it." Really? So now that the Santa Marta residents have some color on their walls, they are just as well off as the wealthy on the other side of town? So if we just paint East Oakland it will be just as affluent a neighborhood as Oakland Hills? I don't think I agree.
Images and information obtained from CNN.com