Artists Hope to Turn Slum into Art


Dutch artists want to turn an entire hillside slum in Rio de Janeiro into a monumental piece of urban art—and they are asking for your help.

The ambitious project aims not only to transform hundreds of homes in the city into a brightly colored masterpiece, but also to train and employ local residents, according to artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn (Haas & Hahn), who make up Favela Painting, the organization behind the effort.

“We want to create a monument that reflects the colorful spirit of the favela [shantytown] inhabitants,” the team said in an announcement.

The “Back to Rio” project—planned for the Vila Cruzeiro neighborhood—aims to use art as a tool to inspire, create beauty, combat prejudice and attract attention, according to the artists.

Crowd-Funded Community Project

Here’s where you come in.

The Amsterdam-based team is in the final stretch of a 37-day Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund the project.

As of Friday (Oct. 25) morning, Favela Painting had raised more than $83,000 of its $100,000 goal, but the clock is ticking, as the project will be funded only if 100 percent of the goal is pledged by Thursday (Oct. 31).

Haas&Hahn /

Past projects include the “Praça Cantão” in Rio de Janeiro, which features a burst of colorful rays stretching across 34 houses, a school, and 7,000 square meters of favela hillside. The team trains and employs local residents to help with projects.

Favela Painting provides the following breakdown of what donations via the Kickstarter platform can purchase:

  • $1 could buy a paint brush;
  • $100 pays for 10 gallons of paint; and
  • $1,000 employs a painter for a month (including insurance, uniform and lunch).

The team is also offering donors rewards, including virtual tours, t-shirts or even a personal visit by the artists.

Haas & Hahn

Since 2005, the duo—together with local residents—have painted several large-scale murals in communities throughout Rio de Janeiro, inspired by the favela residents’ positive attitudes, spirit and creativity.

The two were filming a documentary about the hip-hop culture in Rio de Janiero when they came up with the idea of the favela painting projects.

The vibrant projects have grown in scale. For example, the “Praça Cantão” project features a burst of colorful rays stretching across 34 houses, a school, and 7,000 square meters of favela hillside.

Rio Cruizero Japanese River
Haas&Hahn / / design by Rob Admiraal

Haas & Hahn plans to begin "Back to Rio" in 2014. Another project, "Japanese River," is pictured.

With the “Back to Rio” effort, the team said it hoped to “paint an entire favela and realize a social artwork of unprecedented size in a positive way."

“The project will create pride, optimism, jobs, and attention for favelas and their residents.”

In a video about the project, the artists say they are ready to begin in 2014 and will plaster and paint as many houses as funding allows, with the help of locals who are trained by the artists.

Philly Painting Project

Haas & Hahn's work has also appeared in the United States.

In 2012, the team collaborated with The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to paint the facades of an entire city block in a North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Haas & Hahn / courtesy of Mural Arts Program

Last year, Haas & Hahn parntered with The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to transform an entire block of North Philadelphia.

The goal of the Philly Painting project was to mobilize the community to help transform a commercial corridor that had lost its luster and bring a bright new look to the neighborhood.

Philly painting
Steve Weinik / Mural Arts Program

The "Philly Painting" project revamped the facades of buildings in a commercial area that had lost its luster.

The Mural Arts Program is also supporting the team's “Back to Rio” project, according to Kickstarter.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Artists; Building facades; Color; Color + Design; Designers; Murals; Painters; Project Photos; Worker training

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.