If art is about communication, it makes sense to take it to the streets so that it can reach the masses. That’s what street art is all about. But, in Chile, the Open Air Museum of San Miguel, Santiago is taking things to a whole new level!
Mixart Cultural Centre has created the canvas of the most stunning graffiti project I have ever laid my eyes on: a neighborhood with social housing dating back to the 60s. Grey, dull, quite depressing… this seems like the perfect background for the colorful, powerful and socially charged murals of Museo al Cielo Abierto en San Miguel.
Back in 2009, two inhabitants of San Miguel started thinking of ways to revitalize their neighborhood. They wanted the dark buildings to look better and they dreamed that their community would come to feel proud of the place they live in. That’s how the open air museum idea starting taking shape.
But it isn’t all about color and aesthetics around here. While allowing a diverse group of Chilean and international graffiti artists to use the local houses as their canvases, the residents of San Miguel also wanted to tell a story. Actually, not one, but many diverse stories. As the locals continue to be involved approving up and coming murals (there are 46 so far), they get to share the values they believe in, and plaster on their walls, thought provoking messages they consider worth spreading.
Just because San Miguel isn’t rich, that doesn’t mean it can’t have a voice. And it has quite a powerful one, indeed!
We visited at the end of street market day (Feria de Tristan Matta), that’s why there is lots of fresh produce strewn about. It isn’t always dirty around San Miguel. On the contrary, it is pleasant to walk around here and, on clear days, the impressive Andes mountain range can be seen in the background.
If children and their rights seem to be a common topic covered in the murals of San Miguel’s Open Air Museum, so are work, the land, and the environment. These themes are strong, among others, in the following pieces:
Among the national and international muralists that have contributed to San Miguel’s Open Air Museum, Inti, stands out. Inti is of the most celebrated street artists in Chile, and you are likely to come across his work in Santiago (like this impressive Andean inspired mural in Bellas Artes), but also in his hometown of Valparaiso. In fact, his stunning work is present in cities all over the world. Inti’s work often incorporates elements from Inca and tribal culture. His piece in San Miguel explores one of his usual topics, religion and the life-death duality.
This project has the potential to attract the attention of even those not particularly fond of graffiti. Just the sheer size of the murals can’t go unnoticed. The colors will make you look, but the themes covered will hook you up.
Open any time, any day, for free, this Museum is as democratic as urban art is bound to get!
How to get there: From downtown Santiago take the metro red line to Los Heroes. Transfer to the yellow line towards La Cisterna and exit at Metro Departamental. Once out of the metro station, turn right on Tristan Matta street. Walk for about 5 minutes and you’ll come across the first murals (house numbers at around 1500). Murals can be found not only on Tristan Matta, but also on Carlos Edwards and Departamental streets.
More info: museoacieloabiertoensanmiguel.cl