In my mind, any location deserves a deeper look with regard to the built environment and street art or graffiti found visible to the public. So when I learned that the International Leadership Association (ILA) was holding their annual conference in Barcelona, I was ecstatic for Barcelona is recognized internationally as a vibrant, creative, abundant street art scene.
ILA 2015 Post Conference Tour/Workshop: Barcelona Street Art: An Exploration of Street Art, Culture, Politics, and Culture
My basic idea was that a tour/workshop featuring Barcelona's street art would be fun affording participants an opportunity to explore boundary and intersectional questions pertaining to: street artists, their art, expression, and subculture versus the streets, and public versus private spaces including who decides what is acceptable; formal (often commissioned) versus informal art; and legality and criminality of artist’s activity. So I contacted Barcelona Street Style Tour - co-founded by Joachim Castaneda and Mike Frankos assisted by Dominic Attard to see if they might be interested in designing a street art tour specifically for ILA participants - a process that required developing a proposal and selection via a competitive process. Our proposal, selected for a post-conference tour, included two parts: (a) Street Art Tour led by Mike Frankos and (b) How-to Make Graffiti workshop conducted by Dominic Attard.
Barcelona is a city with a rich cultural, artistic, and political history. Barcelona’s urban art takes a variety of forms ranging from simple written words to elaborate murals, graffiti, street art, pasteups, tags and stencils. This tour highlighted Barcelona’s graffiti and street art movement showcasing the latest works of art found adorning almost every wall in the city center. For an introduction to Barcelona street art, see Las Calles Hablan is a documentary film about "discovering a hidden world, an extraordinary subculture and the struggle between an artistic community painting for freedom of expression and an increasingly restrictive dogmatic government." Some highlights of the tour through pictures:
- "Seeing" and observing what is going on within our built environment is a capacity that must be taught and exercised. One participant noted, "Now that you see street art, you see it every where."
- Street art adds vivaciousness, stories, and richness to the built environment. The artists who put their works on the streets are people, with stories, and for a variety of reasons, a desire (need?) to express themselves using this media.
- Street art represents a sub culture with rules, norms, and shared understandings. For example - Barcelona based street artists paint on the roll down metal doors. Per Mike, travelers are those who paint on the walls... Placement of tags, signatures, etc. follows rules of the street with regard to respect for artists' work.
- Street art takes a variety of forms and styles: murals, paintings, stickers, pasteups, stencils; characters, figures, scenes, words, shapes, abstracts, etc.
- Street artists have reputations - some artists like Pez have international reputations, they are known, their style is recognizable.
- Street art is illegal in Barcelona, offenders face a 3000 euro fine but street artists take the risk, their work is evident throughout the city.
- Highlight: Visiting Base Elements Urban Art Gallery
- A tour/workshop like this raises questions: Where else is street art? What is the 'scene' like in the US? Are the same issues facing US street artists? Who is studying the phenomena? How do we incorporate more experiential efforts like this into the ILA.
- Post-conference was perfect because ILA participants were relaxed - their presentations were done, nothing was ahead of them except fun.
- Next time I would build in a snack break or more time in advance of the tour so people could grab food.
- When doing an event like this particularly in an international context - people likely won't be checking email, have a communication contingency.
- Do more of these sorts of events at ILA conferences. Presentations/workshops are fine and serve their purpose but ours is a very educated, thoughtful group - they don't need in your face scholarship to think, learn, and ponder (grin).
Barcelona Street Style Tour
What a great company and group of guys to work with in organizing this tour - fun, responsive to the goals we set forth for the tour/workshop, and interested in the group's makeup and interests. Joachim took the lead on logistics, scheduling, and helping work out the details with the ILA. He is efficient, responsive to emails and demonstrated enthusiasm for the project. Mike Frankos conducted the walking tour - he is a playful spirit with a wonderful gift of gab, and a great story teller knowledgeable about Barcelona and her street art. He delivered a fun and informative experience. Dominic who conducted the hands on how to create graffiti workshop is a gifted teacher, patient and instructive with a friendly spirit. Both Mike and Domnic had such a warm sense of humor - something I look for in those I associate with!
If you find yourself in Barcelona, take the BSST as a way to explore and learn more about street art and to wander the streets with the best. For corporate planners - if you want an experience that gets your team outside of the office in a group exercise, consider working with BSST to design an experience. The walking tour plus how-to workshop was a fantastic way to bring people together in a common experience, expand individual capacities to 'see' and provided an opportunity for people to explore their creative side..
Barcelona Street Style Tour website. Retrieved from http://barcelonastreetstyletour.com
Base Elements Urban Art Gallery website. Retrieved from http://baseelements.net
Dominic Attard website. Retrieved from http://motiquedesigns.wix.com/streetart
International Leadership Association website. Retrieved from http://www.ila-net.org
Las Calles Hablan documentary. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/60149775