Project Brings Art to the Homeless in Downtown Sí£o Paulo, Brazil

Sé Square (Praça da Sé) in downtown São Paulo, Brazil Sé Square, the central point of downtown São Paulo, the largest business center in South America, has become the object of studies of three Italian visual artists. In the month of October, Vera Uberti, Valetina Vetturi and Kátia Meneghini started an artistic project in the city.

The research was divided into two parts, the first concluded in December, the second should end in mid 2008. To promote the work, the artists set up base in Patriarca Square, also in the central region of the city, in Lutétia building, a home for artists that is run by FAAP (Armando ílvares Penteado Foundation, a renowned college in São Paulo).

The result of the first phase of the work will be presented early next year, at Fondazione Michelangelo Pistoletto, in Italy.

According to Vera Uberti, the idea of promoting the work arose from collaboration between Brazilian and Italian artists interested in participating in social and environmental discussions in large metropolises, placing art at the same level as politics, sociology, anthropology and pedagogy, for example.

"In the first phase, we prepared actions that could help us get in contact with the complex reality of Sé square, so we could know it more profoundly," she says.

Among the actions for generation of closer ties promoted by the group, Vera mentions "seeding," in which artists took flowers to the square and asked passers-by and street dwellers to help in their planting. Those who planted were also invited to take care of the plants, watering them daily, for example.

Another action promoted by the group was the "tourist-guide." "We asked one of the dwellers in the square to guide us, showing us the points that, according to him, were the most interesting," explained Vera.

The result was a video with tourist guidance exclusively by those living in the square. According to Vera, their reaction was surprising. "The audience reacted with great curiosity and showed great interest in participating, interacting with our proposals," she said.

"We believe that the actions cause reflections about social and environmental problems in the city. Such reflections are not immediate, but they remain in the heads of all those participating actively or passively, in each one of them," she added.

The group's last activity, called "the amblers," took place last week. Pulling a little cart full of books, the three artists moved around the center of the city offering people the chance of flipping through the books and discussing art amidst the chaos of the metropolis.

The moving library was followed by a small café, which offered free coffee to passers-by. "While drinking our coffees we talked about important names for the world of art, like German artist Joseph Beuys, the Italian Giulio Carlo Argan and Marcel Duchamp, among others. This action was the one that served as final integration of all the others," explained Vera.

In the second and last phase of the project, the group intends to participate more actively in other sectors of society, like civil administration, for example. Among the actions proposed for 2008 is the creation of a radio station in Sé Square, Marcozero. The system should be the same as that used in other activities, the group will invite passers-by to participate, to interact.

Different from Vera Uberti, who is Brazilian and based in the country, Kátia and Valetina did not know Brazil before participating in the project. The artistic experience was also their first outside the European reality.

"There were two main aspects that attracted our attention the most in São Paulo: the disparity and great division there is between social groups, and, at the same time, the great solidarity there is among people," stated Kátia.

Valetina adds "we got in contact with a reality that is very different from what we are used to and, maybe, the most precious experience we will take home is the possibility of placing our points of view in discussion."

 

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