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Love your neighbors—old message and new look for one of the most popular street arts of Budapest

According to Banksy, “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.” In a crisis like war, when we’re powerless and vulnerable, there are moments when art is the only way to reduce the overwhelming pressure of events. It is no coincidence that, following the outbreak of the war between Russia and Ukraine, artworks reflecting on the events began to appear around the world. The Colourful City Organization told us about the iconic street arts of Budapest that will be transformed as a symbol of solidarity.

Different art forms often go hand in hand with tragedies, wars and crises, as they provide a way to express thoughts and emotions that otherwise would be very difficult to understand. In the case of a painting, a common spoken language is not even necessary. “The art world is obviously very moved by this war. This is typical in situations like this, especially when a crisis happens ‘next door’ to the artist, on the same continent, everyone reacts much more quickly,” General Secretary of the Colourful City Organization Péter Flór pointed out. The means of art are not enough to stop such a political chain of events, but maybe they call people’s attention that they can do something, they can help!” Péter added.

Street art vs. urban art

We might ask why we have to wait weeks or, in some cases, months for an artwork. As non-experts, we would expect that it is the street arts that are able to provide an immediate answer to a social question, because, to put it simply, there is nothing to do with them but to go out and paint them. You can distinguish between street art and urban art, in the case of the two, the first is really to respond instantly to certain situations. However, it is important to know that urban art, the work that Colourful City does, requires a lot of planning, as well as a lot of permitting, which takes time, Péter explained. In the Hungarian capital, there are also many wall surfaces that are legal to paint, but at the same time, we can expect that our painting may not be permanent, as another work can be put in its place at any time. Painting firewalls is a much more complicated task, as it’s crucial to obtain the necessary permits, weather conditions are very important, not to mention the financial implications of such a project, as it requires a considerable amount of paint, scaffolding and manpower.

Photo: Színes Város
Photo: Színes Város

Love your neighbors

It was clear to the Colourful City team that they wanted to raise awareness of the current events through a painting, but rather than depicting the horrors of war, they decided to emphasize the need for help and solidarity.

 “One of our best known and most photographed paintings, a red heart, is located on Dob Street. It expresses the message ‘love your neighbors’ and was designed by British artist Luke Embden. He gave us permission to paint it in the colors of the Ukrainian flag,” Péter said. “We are confident that the new version of the painting will reach at least as many people as the red version, since its message is now more important than ever.”

Photo: András Farkas

Art is an experience, as well as a therapy

As the Colorful City team did not only want to raise awareness of the “people of the streets” but also provide concrete support to those who left their life behind when fleeing from war, they came up with a truly heart-warming idea. “Kati Benkő, with whom we have been working for years and who has designed and painted several of our projects, came up with the idea of bringing coloring books to the children. We received feedback from NGOs helping refugees that there was a desperate need for toys and activities to engage the children. So we came up with a coloring book, which will include the projects already implemented by Colorful City. We will deliver these with colored pencils and erasers to hostels sheltering refugees.

Cover Photo: András Farkas

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