You’ve felt the chill. You enter a pristine art gallery and elicit an assessing glance from a meticulously chic staffer who, shrewdly spotting a non-buyer, quickly resumes staring at his MacBook. Maybe it was all in your head. Maybe you are welcome to browse at your leisure. But it doesn’t feel that way to you. And so you leave a couple of minutes later with a sour taste in your mouth.
Real or imagined, it’s a problem. Lots of people feel unwelcome in the establishment art world. Happily there’s a global trend toward more-inclusive art experiences, including acclaimed initiatives such as JR’s Inside Out Project, Art Walk-type events where galleries fling their doors open to the public (though, as we know, there’s a backlash), and even our own community art project Sketchy Miami.
Wallpeople is in the same family. The annual one-day event invites people — anyone and everyone — to display self-made artwork on a public wall for all to see. There is no curation. You can bring whatever you want (as long as it adheres to size and weight restrictions) and put it up on the wall.
This humble invitation to exhibit your creativity on equal footing with friends and strangers has resonated around the world. Started in Barcelona back in 2010, Wallpeople will take place this Saturday in 40 cities, from Istanbul to Miami, specifically in Wynwood. To learn more about Wallpeople and this year’s Miami edition, I emailed a few questions to local organizer Elisa Rodríguez-Vila.
What is Wallpeople and how did you get personally involved?
ERV: Wallpeople is an international art movement that was founded in Barcelona by Pablo Quijano and David Marcos. They wanted to reclaim public space as a venue for expression and citizen interaction. They also wanted to create an aspect of the art world that was free of commerce. By organizing a pop-up gallery in which anyone can participate they did just that and empowered people to embrace their creativity. Now Wallpeople has grown and takes place once a year in 45 cities simultaneously. Although I used to live in Barcelona, I only heard of Wallpeople once I moved back to Miami. I saw one of their videos online and immediately decided to email them to see if they were looking for a coordinator in Miami. Working in Wynwood, I knew it would be the perfect place for an event like this. They quickly responded and have been incredibly helpful and communicative ever since. I hope to keep organizing this event every year and make it better and better.
What are the do’s and don’ts of Wallpeople?
ERV: It’s very simple: You can bring any piece of artwork that you’ve made. Since this year’s theme is Music, the pieces should be inspired by or related to music, but this is open to everyone’s personal interpretation. The only restrictions are size and weight: it can’t be bigger than 3ft x 3ft and it cannot be so heavy that it needs to be hung with a hook or a nail. The event is free and does not require registration of any kind, so all you have to do is show up with your art. If you do not bring a piece to display you can obviously still come and enjoy the art and meet people.
Wallpeople seems to be part of a larger effort to warm up the chilly atmosphere of the establishment art world by creating art experiences in unconventional places and inviting more people to express their creativity — do you see it that way? Why do you think that is important and what’s the ultimate goal?
ERV: I definitely see it that way and the connection to street art is undeniable. I think some aspects of the art world can be a bit cold, but more than that I think for people on the “outside” of the art world it seems impenetrable. That’s what matters — people’s perception, that they are unmotivated by it or think it’s not for them. Wallpeople says it IS for you. It’s saying that the art world isn’t just in galleries, it also exists on the streets. It’s a way to encourage people to create their own art world if they can’t break into the established one. So more interesting than challenging the status quo is how this event challenges people to embrace their own creativity and to have the courage to display it in a public space. This event is not going to change the art world in one day, but it can change people’s ideas and it creates a whole new venue for the art world to exist in. I think it’s extremely important to inspire creativity and keep it alive in all of us, because it’s part of what makes us human, what makes each of us unique and it’s valuable no matter what job you have. The ultimate goal is not commercial or to spread a certain belief, it is just to create a space open to everyone to express and connect. It’s a positive addition to the art world, not an attempt to destroy it.
How are you working the theme of music into this year’s event and how do you expect participating artists to do so?
ERV: I think this year’s theme is perfect because music nowadays is the most accessible and universal art form. Everyone listens to music even if they don’t consider themselves an artist, while not everyone goes to galleries. So music is a perfect medium to inspire someone who normally wouldn’t be attracted to an event like this. It’s relatable and the possibilities are endless with music. A song, an artist, a lyric, a live performance, a concert poster, or an album cover can inspire a piece. Miami is already well known for its art, but I think the music scene here is growing too and this is a great way to bring them together. In a multicultural city like Miami, where we all know what it’s like to be lost in translation, art and music are important because it brings those cultures together and you don’t need words to communicate. We are going to be playing music and have invited local bands and DJs to submit their music to miami [at] wallpeople [dot] org so we can have some Miami talent performing at the event.
Wallpeople is by definition an outdoor event – why is that important to Wallpeople’s identity? And what do you do if it (gulp) rains?
ERV: The reason why outdoors is so important is because it is open and can be viewed from public space. Also it creates the possibility for people to stumble upon the event on their way somewhere else. Openness is integral to Wallpeople’s identity and reshaping urban space is one of their main goals. A “wall” is usually something we think of as a barrier. This way we redefine the wall as an open space. I don’t even want to think about the rain, but in Miami it is unavoidable. So in the case that we have to move the event indoors, the fact that it is still open and free to the public I hope still evokes the same message. We will announce any changes to location on the Facebook event page and on twitter through #wallpeoplemiami so stay tuned.
Editor’s note: Just as we were about to publish this post, Rodríguez-Vila let us know that because of a high likelihood of rain and possibly even severe thunderstorms on Saturday, the event will indeed take place indoors. The new address is 173 N.W. 23rd Street, “an empty building with great walls so it will still have the pop-up and public space feel,” says Rodríguez-Vila. Back to the Q&A!
Will the works on display at Wallpeople Miami be for sale? Or is this less about commerce and more about empowering people who might not normally have an audience for their creativity? Why is that important?
ERV: Works will not be for sale. The idea is that at the end of the event you can trade your piece for someone else’s. Although it is not required, this exchange is encouraged because it can be very rewarding and you can establish a meaningful connection with a stranger or another artist. This event is definitely not about commerce. No money is made from it, there is no brand behind it, and it costs no money to put it together. This is extremely important because this is art in its pure form. It’s art for art’s sake, with no motive besides expression. This does not mean that selling your art in another setting or at a gallery is a negative endeavor at all. I think it’s great if an artist can make a living with their work. It only means that this is a completely different environment and exercise in creativity. I think it’s important to have this balance and not let commercial gain rule your work, because if it does, it will never be your best work.