BoreArt: Community Youth Group in Borel Sets Out to Dissolve Stigma Through Art

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BoreArt, a group of young residents in the Borel favela in Tijuca, North Zone, aims to turn a former space of crime into a community meeting point through art with their latest endeavor, the Escadaria do Borel project, which will transform a popular local staircase into an urban artwork.

Art in the favela

BoreArt is an art-promoting group formed in 2012, led by five young residents from the Borel community. Their current goal is to reverse the negative perceptions people have of a specific location in their community, Nossa Senhora de Fátima Street.

“Five years ago, that street was a known meeting point for criminals,” said Ana Santos, a member of the group. “We wanted to change the idea that people have in their heads that the street is only an area of violence.”

The group began to tackle this objective through a partnership with Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art last year, when they held an exhibition that showcased work by Brazilian artists. The works were displayed on the walls of four homes along Nossa Senhora de Fátima Street, and have remained there since for open visits. The group also began offering urban art workshops for young residents between the ages of 15 and 29 that include graffiti and photography.

BoreArt holds graffiti workshops for the community's youth. Photo courtesy of BoreArt

Isabela Santos, another member of the group, said BoreArt is now looking to build on the success of the last exhibition to host another by the end of this year, and to take on a new project, the escadaria (stairway). The gallery and workshops offered so far have helped transform the stigmatized location, but the Escadaria do Borel project will be the consolidation of the cultural community “meeting point” the group aims for, she said.

The Escadaria do Borel project

Inspired by the famous Escadaria Selarón in Lapa, the idea is to collect tiles from donations and use them to decorate the stairway in their community Selarón-style by the end of November.

“We thought, man, the Escadaria Selarón is extremely popular, it changed a big space. That place used to be abandoned. Maybe we can do the same in our community,” Isabela said. “We could draw the attention of outsiders and residents to that space and not only give our project visibility, but give the residents visibility and give that space visibility, transforming it into a meeting point in Borel.”

BoreArt wants to turn the escadaria into a meeting place for the community. Photo courtesy of BoreArt

Isabela Santos said BoreArt has made a positive impact in giving value to spaces that were once undervalued by community members themselves.

“Residents undervalue the place. They see it through the eyes of outsiders and so see it as a decaying space instead of realizing the potential it has. The residents themselves are the potential,” Isabela said. “We work a lot with youth, and we show them how art and this kind of intervention modifies space.”

BoreArt has already received some tile donations. Photo courtesy of BoreArt

A project for projects

BoreArt was founded through the initiative of five young students who participated in the groundbreaking Rio program, Agência Redes Para Juventude (Networks for Youth Agency, featured previously on RioOnWatch). Founded by Rio writer and theater director Marcus Faustini, Agência establishes networks and opportunities for young people in the urban periphery to imagine and execute their own community-based projects. There are currently 25 funded projects–including BoreArt–and each receives a grant up to R$10,000 to set up operation.

Ana Santos said the Agência is not only the group’s financial backer, but it stimulates students’ creativity to think of project ideas through courses and workshops, offers mentorship from college students, provides contacts for potential partnerships and gives scholarships. Agência fellows think of a good project, and the organization gives them all the resources to make it happen, she said.

How to help

BoreArt is taking tile donations throughout the month of November. For more information contact Isabela Santos at +55-21-98711- 8006, email, or contact the group via Facebook. Tiles may also be mailed to:

BoreArt a/c Agência de Redes para Juventude | Rua Teotônio Regadas, 26 – sala 603 | Santa Teresa, RJ | CEP 20021-360 | Rio de Janeiro, RJ | Brazil

Boreart – Azulejos from 3 mais 1 Filmes on Vimeo.