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Artists aim to rebrand Rio slums with mural makeover


A Brazilian slum will be getting a colorful facelift in the coming year, now that a new project by two Dutch artists has been funded.

"Favela Painting" by Haas & Hahn is a project intending to plaster and paint the facades of an entire shanty town in Rio de Janeiro with vivid, hyper-pigmented art designs to create an all-encompassing mural. The project officially reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter this Wednesday.

"It's amazing that through crowdfunding, people can support projects so directly and can become part of a dream. We are proud, humbled, but most of all extremely excited!" said Dre Urhahn, whose partner Jeroen Koolhaas, aka Haas, is currently in Tokyo for work.

Haas &Hahn have been doing projects in Via Cruzeiro since 2006, when they created their first mural there, "Boy with Kite." Since then the duo has partnered with the community to paint several more, as well as received invitations to create similar works in other countries.

"We have been invited to many countries, from Colombia to China, to discuss potential projects. Philly Painting was the first project we did by invitation. It was an initiative from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, working together with several partners," said Urhahn. "Right now, sister projects in Mexico and Haiti are being discussed."

He hopes to have the first batch of houses in Rio de Janeiro painted by mid-2014.

"The people there know us pretty well and we have stayed in touch with all our friends and crew mates," he went on. "We don't simply see a project site as 'areas we are planning to rebrand,' but rather as the stage for a very large collective and communal effort of beautification, with attached social effects like job creation, stimulated dialogue, social inclusion, et cetera."

It can also stimulate tourism to the area, with curious travelers wanting to photograph the newly technicolor landscape.

"The painted houses give people a completely different, more positive and also more valid reason to visit a community," Urhahn said. "And most community members will take pride in that and welcome people to come and see it with their own eyes. This is very positive attention for a place and very different from favela tourism, where tourists come to sneek a peek at crime and poverty, before returning to the beach."