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How one woman is changing the face of El Salvador through Street Art

[*] artstigator /artsˈtɪɡeɪtor/ noun: street art aficionado who artstigates, or tirelessly covers the streets of a city on the quest to document the emerging street art scene. Slightly addicted.

Meet art curator Alexandra Sol. She is the creator of Journey of an Artstigator, a group of artstigators on the quest to document and bring forth the works of talented artists. Here she talks to Caitlin Creeper about why it is so important to  encourage people, from all backgrounds, to express their opinion publicly through non- violent ways: art.

My passion for street art began when I lived in Washington DC back in 2013. I was hustling through the corporate world, but there was something inside of me that knew I had to get back to my Art History roots… 

I wanted to focus not only on contemporary art but on something with more impact, more social. Truthfully, I didn’t “know” about graffiti or street art at the time, but I did know that it was ridiculous to pay $15.00 to enter a museum, and I felt there should be more democratic forms of art accessible to more people. 

At the same time, I was training for a marathon and every time I would go for a long run I stopped to document the art I found along the way. I slowly began a relationship with the art outside and it became a thing to run to cool murals. Then, I would document everything I found on my account #JourneyOfAMarathon

I started looking into social programs related to art and I found the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, which to this day I admire and I’m inspired by their story and their founder Jane Golden. So it clicked, that was what I was going to focus on, MURALS! Street ART! and graffiti! The dots connected.  

I started applying to Masters degrees in Barcelona because the Universidad de Barcelona had an Art Therapy Program which seemed a perfect fit, I had visited Barcelona before and had noticed the beautiful public art there and loved the vibe. So many other little things like roommates and Visas just unraveled so easily that it was evident I had to get there quick.

And once I was there, I began documenting everything. I made the most out of the cultural scene and focused on street art events and gatherings. I met several artists, and within three months I already had a fair share of information…. mind you, all this was documented under my blog Journey of a Marathon….. 

Artist @eddie.37 / location: San Salvador, El Salvador

So, I was giving street art tours and curating the space Nau Bostik, documenting everything, starting a following base, so that was when the Journey we know today came into fruition. 

It started as a blog and it has now become a platform, a community.

Street Art is important to me because it is a democratic form of expression. You express yourself in the streets without approval, provenance, nothing and the street itself elects whether the art stays or does not stay.

Street Art makes me want to be outside. In Barcelona I loved bringing locals and internationals together, I loved showing people around, I loved the random conversations that went on for hours on social movements around the world. To this day, I love sharing art with people through Instagram that I’ve met on my tours!

In El Salvador I feel satisfied when I know that someone tonight is talking about art with its family instead of other depressing topics like violence and our situation here in the country. I think street art is important when the kids from the community murals send me their drawings on Facebook. 

 

Artist @snatoonkpc / location: San Salvador, El Salvador

Especially in a country like ours, were we fight everyday for our own voice and for being known for something other than gang violence and shitty government, I think it is important to encourage people, from all backgrounds, to express their opinion publicly through non- violent ways: art.

Also, in a Salvadorean context, I think street art is important to open up spaces for us to walk outside, to make art accessible and to use art as a means of expression against the status quo.

I think the biggest challenge for the Journey is giving life to the murals after they’ve been executed. It bothers me to know that we’ve done murals with an amazing stories behind it and people rarely visit it. Or ask. Or interact with it. 

In Barcelona we had daily tours so we kept our art alive. In El Salvador we’re still working to make this happen!

here are times when we have to really work on balance.

artist: @saraerenthalart / El Tunco Beach, El Salvador

I’m not really good at work/life balance…. I really love what I do so I tend to over work all the time!!! 

My boyfriend of three years is part of the team, we work together. It’s great when the creative juices are flowing and when we are brainstorming a massive project or idea but I must say that nature is very important to me, to us. We make it a MUST to leave San Salvador once a week (at least!). We were living in El Zonte for the first three months of the year and it was beautiful to wake up to morning yoga and take lunch breaks and eat by the sea. Then at 5:00PM we’d watch the sunsets. Just being next to nature brings me back to my ki.

I admire women who follow their passion and break free from all the social strings that tie you down. Women who open themselves to new perspectives, who unlearn what they’ve been conditioned to believe. 

I admire women who fight for a cause, who research for a better world, who write poetry. Most of my deep friends I admire for the career paths they’ve chosen. I love my passionate zero-waste activists, the chefs running their own restaurants, my artist friends who work inside violent communities. I love my graffiti writer friends who defy the norm, they give me life! They inspire me to keep going!

So I’d say keep shining your light, you guys recharge my soul when I need it!

 

The most rewarding experience I have ever had with JOAA is earlier this year the Journey partnered with ConTextos, an NGO that believes in the transformative power of literature, and we led five muralism workshops that ended in five Murals. Working in Apopa, working with people from the community, seeing their faces light up when they painted their own section of the mural- priceless!

There are places that benefit from art more than others and at Apopa it felt like art was exactly what we needed to do there!

My favorite place in the worldddddd for street art is Barcelona. I love Philly [Philadelphia] too, but Philly is a little more structured! I love Barcelona because it is spontaneous! Street Art pops up every night, it is done by artists and citizens. It is a form of expression, it is part of the social tapestry!

Children do it, parents help children artists out, it is a community thing! 

We are currently working on transforming La Craftería. La Craftería is a beer garden ran by Sivar Brewing Company in Plan de la Laguna and we are working with BirdCap, an artist from the US and TNT and Darwin Flores, from El Salvador.

We are also working on a creative baby, called Espacio 132. Espacio 132 is a members house for creatives.  We will have our offices there, artist’s studios, a residency, a Montana Colors Shop, a co-working coffee and a yoga studio. All this flanked by amazing murals! We’re really enjoying it!

Within the next five years, The Journey will be an international community that connects artists from all over the world.
We want to make El Salvador known for its urban art. We want to be a bridge for artists to go paint in other countries and for artists from other countries to come here.
In five years Journey will have its own community programs working social programs across the region too! We will bring art on a regular, structured program to the communities in most need! 
You can find Alexandra and Journey of an Artstigator herehere and here.
Interviewed by Caitlin Creeper.

About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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