Public art has the power to incite change in the ways that indoor art often falls short. Jeroen Koolhaas, a Netherlands-based street artist, is a great example of this differentiation. Over the last 14 years, Koolhaas and his cohort Dre Urhahn (the duo go by Haas&Hahn) have traveled to the slums of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to paint beautiful and vibrant murals with the help of community members. Termed the “Favela Painting Project,” their efforts have invigorated extremely impoverished areas, including one of the city’s most notorious areas, Villa Cruzeiro. They’ve moved beyond Brazil, painting in Curaçao and other locales, staying consistent with their inspiration to uplift the communities they paint.
These murals are more than a pretty coat of paint, though. They are opportunities for locals to improve their houses and brighten their neighborhoods, as the artists use as much help as they can get in each project. Since the first one in 2005, Haas&Hahn have gained international recognition, which has led one of them — Koolhaas — to Denver. He will be in town next week to serve two purposes — to paint during the CRUSH WALLS graffiti and street art festival and to inspire empathy during the Biennial of the Americas Festival.
The Biennial is a massive event held every other year in Denver, designed to bring together leaders in various topics from all over the Western hemisphere. This year, the theme of the Biennial is “empathy in action” — something that Koolhaas understands and practices daily.
Although CRUSH WALLS focused more on Colorado-based artists this year than in the last few years, they readily partnered with the Biennial to host Koolhaas during this upcoming week (September 2 through 8). As an artist who constantly strives to build bridges between street art, social justice and urban planning, Koolhaas might be able to impart some wisdom to RiNo or other city groups who also spend their time juggling those heavy topics.
For a map of where to find Koolhaas and other artists during CRUSH, go here.