Frumos!


© Ursula Meyer
© Ursula Meyer

Nice!

I set off to Eastern Europe for the first time in my life, happy at the chance I had been given to deliver a workshop on graffiti and street art in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova. The young organizers, Dana and Ciprian, gave me a warm welcome. My first impression was extremely positive. I was surrounded by young people who were ready to change the old structures and learn new things.

The workshop venue was “Anexa 1”, a new alternative space dedicated to arts and located in the centre of the University of the Arts. The room has great potential. Not only is it fulsomely decorated and appealing, but it also gives young artists a chance to perfect their creativity outside their tightly-defined curriculum.

Before starting the workshop we needed to acquire materials, like spray cans, exterior paints and paint rollers. It was no easy thing. But we managed. The eight participants we had, Dana, Ana, Nicu, Ciprian, Dan, Vova, Costa and David, all aged between 17 and 20, were extremely open and passionate. A brief introduction to the topic gave us the opportunity to get acquainted with each other; we then had coffee and a snack together. It wasn’t long before we came to the conclusion that the students’ creativity was stifled by the antiquated structures and conservative mind-set of the institution’s management.

For this reason, after an introduction to the history and techniques of graffiti art, I focused on explaining the entertainment value and stimuli prompted by graffiti and street art. To me it was also much more important to convey to the participants the idea that through the art displayed in public spaces everyone can recover and mould the city they live in to their own style and that art represents an act of free expression and, to a certain extent, an act of personal anarchy.

In this respect, “Anexa nr1” gave us the right framework to get into the theme. The space proved to be suitable for community activities as well as for play, for giving free rein to creativity, with no constraints.

Following a brief introduction, the participants started to plan their wall. Step by step, in a democratic manner, they decided to create a political theme and started sketching. The team eventually decided to set up the wall as a collage, with each member using their own style. I encouraged them to make their own decisions and not to look to me as an authority. I wanted them to see me as a person willing to help, if they needed me.

After the image emerged, the actual work started. We spent three days outdoors and painted a 8x3m wall. It was fantastic to be present when the participants in my workshop found their own way, developed their own style and worked with their neighbours to create a real, complete work of art. I noticed the fact that they were neither shy nor apprehensive about becoming creative and leaving their writing on the wall. And this is not half daring!

The grey wall became a colourful area with a positive political message. On the last day of work I became creative and started working on the smaller, adjacent wall. Then, in the evening, we opened the space dedicated to the arts. Over 50 people attended the opening, mainly students who were curious to see what had been going on there the previous week. They were all very impressed with the project. It was an evening filled with joy. The room became a place full of life and colour, live music and DJs. It definitely exceeded my expectations. I was extremely proud of my workshop participants and they can be proud of themselves.

My stay in the Republic of Moldova was a very prolific experience. I’m glad I had the chance to inspire such young people. But I’m especially happy to have made new friends. All the participants in my workshop came to the airport and offered me roses on my departure. What a nice thing to do!

I hope these young people won’t halt their efforts to change these structures, which are old-fashioned and conservative in comparison with Western Europe. Moreover, I would like “Anexa nr. 1” to become a permanent space for the exclusive use of Arts students. I would like them not only to be able to create alternative works from creative ideas, but also to practise graffiti and street art techniques.

Ursula Meyer was born in 1987 in San Juan (Argentina). She went to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa and Folkwang University, Essen. She completed her education in experimental design in 2013. Ursula Meyer is living and working in Essen.