With weeks of planning and two days spent hosing, scrubbing and sweeping the grounds of the Finochietto factory in preparation for the day’s events, we all gathered at Valeria and Monte’s apartment Saturday morning staring at the sky filled with doubts about the looming storm. Despite the deep grey and bulging clouds, the artists, performers, volunteers, local kids, families and curious on-lookers slowly filled the vast plazas and alleyways within the old factory-turned-housing-community. From surprise liters of paint being dropped off and guest-star artists showing up, to the twenty-minute torrential mid-afternoon downpour, the day was filled with immense energy as the 200-300 bodies scurried around like an ant colony performing their various deeds and duties.
Kids from ages 6-15, eager to help, shoveled brick and dirt piles into trash bins, hosed down driveways and brushed away the muddy rain water into the street. With smiles on their freshly painted faces, they ran around with footballs and bikes teasing each other, teasing us, probing the artists with questions and proposals to help paint the beautiful murals that were starting to bring the rotting and mildewed concrete walls to life. With over a dozen artists claiming various walls, gates and entryways, gallons of brightly colored latex paint and aerosols climbed the walls far faster than the weeds and moss that came before them. The alleyways full of ladders, paint cans, backpacks, sketchbooks, kids, bicycles, brooms, wheel-barrels stacked full with old bricks and rubbish, trash bags, hoses, liters of latex paint, and brushes of all shapes, sizes and materials, the factory was buzzing for a good ten hours of immense productivity.
Talking to 23 year-old Colombian artist Juan, aka Juancho Hoyos, I got a bit of insight into the artist’s experience of participating in a community and collaboratively-based project such as this one. “It’s a great experience, sharing with people and with people who really need it. Art always is related to peace… and it’s an honor to be here, to come here and to help these people to become better, I don’t know… to become better in many, many ways- in their lives, in their minds, in their homes…it’s a very beautiful thing.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the seventeen murals being painted throughout the day, the Capela Cabaret circus has set up their trapeze and complete circus show outside in a big open area that by 5pm has become the main attraction of the day. Adults and children alike were fully enthralled by the impressive flipping, dancing, miming, acrobatics, costumes and music brought to life by the talented performers that make up this local collective that lives and works within those same factory walls. To see all members of the community be so engaged and supportive of each other was precisely what this event was after; the vibrant murals and clean common areas will serve as a reminder to all about the physical environment they aim to maintain once the actors leave the stage. For this first weekend, however, a housing community growing in its own trash was given an opportunity to come together and breathe some fresh air, as a collective unit. From those who came from across town and some from across the world to those who came just right outside their front doors, there was an energy of one-ness that couldn’t be missed by a single spectator.
Asking some of the kids what they thought of the project, I got responses ranging from the Spanish equivalent of “it’s good” and “do you have a boyfriend?” to more elaborate sentiments as “it’s good to have everybody cleaning here because this is our house. And I also really like the paintings, it’s so cool to see so many artists here wanting to paint our house!” When we finally packed up and left late Saturday evening, artist Olivia Ford and I were swarmed with kids literally pushing each other out of the way to hug us and try to keep us there. After denying several invitations to have sleepovers but promising to come back and visit soon, we journeyed back out through the gate toward our own homes across the city. And when I got there, I had to ask myself if it was nearly as “home” as theirs was…
This weekend was community. This weekend was inspiring. This weekend was insight into 3,000 lives lived separately but so connected within the walls that once made up a textile factory and now make up the daily environment for hundreds of families that have proven to each other and have proven to themselves that with a little bit of organization and encouragement they can come together to take control over the cleanliness and visual environment of their own community. This weekend was the seed for everything C=C could have ever hoped these projects to be, and more. Because we were lucky enough to be trusted and welcomed with open arms into the amazing community that lives behind those heavy gates off of Calle Sta Cruz and Enrique Finochietto.
For Valeria, Monte and the other artists and activists living in the building, this was a promising first step to a much larger goal of ongoing awareness and participation by each and every member of the community. With the second phase already in pre-production and scheduled for the last weekend of May, we will be bringing Finochietto a series of projects and activities to encourage the viewpoint of embracing this lifestyle of collaborative living as a sustainable alternative to apathy and non-action. We are beyond inspired and honored to be a part of such a powerful effort to positively reconstruct this community and can’t wait to see the progress as different artists from all over Buenos Aires join us to participate in this next series of events coming this month.
Thank you again to all the artists who donated their time and talent: Malegria, Corona, Joaquin Lavori, FLX, Juancho Hoyos, Alejandra Leon, Cesar Romero Caceres, Andrea Rodriguez, Olivia Ford and many others!!