New street art is leaving its mark on Cuenca

Mar 10, 2019

“Mouse” and the lads have been busy. The large wall space topping the crown of the Otorongo Plaza stairs is freshly painted, once again. This time we have a noir scene complete with a shaded streetlight, a woman smoking a pipe, and a weary shamus who goes by the name of, Chester. It has all the drama one would expect to be played out in a neighborhood “beautification program” that is as enjoyable as it is controversial and clandestine.

A brick wall across the street from my place was also recently painted by Mouse and his crew.  What was once a dirty, non-descript barrier is now a mural festooned with sharks circling, a boozy fisherman, and a sea-goddess complete with strategically placed seaweed.

The next street to the west is Talbot — its mouth, spilling into Pres. Cordova, is now home to several freshly painted murals vying for attention alongside two newly stenciled exteriors —  transforming all of the buildings into waggish art pieces creating a carnival eccentricity that highlights the block. It is joyfully celebratory without any of the trappings of selfish intent or being self-congratulatory, even as the obligatory chest-thumping tags of teenage boys muddy some of the work.

Cuenca is already enhancing a reputation for exciting public art, and a vibrant community of muralists. This wonderful news may well become one of the identifying markers of the creatives in Cuenca and will help to secure our place in the international market for visitors interested in visiting cities that are arts-minded and has a citizen-friendly infrastructure such as our new Tranvia.

The City of Philadelphia, population 1.5 million, has done a truly remarkable job of transforming their drab surroundings into murals of all sorts and sizes, some meant to inspire, others simply to cheer the day.  The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is responsible for the creation of 3,000 murals spread throughout the city and is now home to one of the largest collections of outdoor art in the world. Over 43 million visitors were drawn to The City of Brotherly Love in 2017, collectively spending $7.1 billion in the region, and supporting more than 98,000 jobs

I am a big fan of outdoor art, including sculptures, ceramics, and murals, but, I am conflicted when faced with repetitive tagging that rarely includes anything other than a name. It is this insistence on repetitive marking, seemingly everywhere, that I find annoying.

Budding muralists deserve places to hone their craft just as we deserve to see creative expression that is fresh, local, and interesting.  However, and always, the devil is in the details; private property owners are often less than amused to find new paint on their building, and city officials seem reluctant to enforce vandalism charges, or ‘clean sweep’ programs for fear of running afoul of free-speech regulations, regardless of the subject matter, or the location of the alleged infraction.

I will be meeting with artists, property owners, and local officials over the next several weeks to glean from them their thoughts and suggestions.

Of course, I hope to hear from you, too.

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