Violence rates have increased markedly in Caracas, Venezuela. This ranks the city among the top five most dangerous in the world, not only for high homicide rates, robberies and kidnappings, but the hostility against minorities.
Somos Posible is a Venezuelan NGO born in 2005 with the idea of promoting a peace culture and sustainable human development among the city of Caracas. This organisation is mostly known for its project called “Échale Color”, inspired by the international initiative Let’s Colour Projectwhich seeks transforming public spaces through paint.
At the moment, Somos Posible runs 3 main programs: VAMOS, Paz con Todo and Échale Color, all of them involving vulnerable communities in the process.
VAMOS is an educational program which helps high school and university students to achieve their goals through conversations with different ambassadors such as Maickel Melamed (a long distance runner), Norelys Rodriguez (a Venezuelan model), Antonio Diaz (a Venezuelan karate practitioner), amongst others.
Paz con Todo is inspired by the global initiative called Peace One Day, promoting every September 21st the day of Peace as it was declared bythe United Nations. Members of this program are convinced that peace is the minimum condition to reach human development and it can be achievable if each and every citizen is willing to make peaceful actions starting from one’s self. This program consists of creating awareness among Venezuelan citizens, forming values that empower cohesion and coexistence. As the organization assures on its website, it doesn’t belong to any government institution, and is not linked to any political ideology or religion.
Échale Color is a community engagement program dedicated to promote integration and local development among different communities through design. Paint is used to modify the physical look of neighbourhoods empowering people to care more about their surroundings. Each intervention takes place in the barrios of the city thanks to the active participation of families, volunteers and neighbours.
The first stage of the program is meeting the community; together with the community leaders, organisers set up some days where everyone gets the chance to know each other and start deciding where, when and which would be the design and colours for the intervention.
A series of workshops are conducted among the neighbourhood, all based in conflict resolution, emotion management, effective communication skills and cohabitation. It is important to understand why artistic interventions are the key to reducing social problems so this helps participants to have a clearer idea.
During a whole weekend, local residents and hundreds of volunteers go up the hills and cover all façades with the colourful and artistic proposals chosen by the local community. Geometric shapes, intense colours and playful activities help all residents gather together for a good cause.
After two months, volunteers visit the neighbourhood again to evaluate the status of the intervention and the impact of the program.
So far, they have done 5 interventions in Caracas. The first Échale Color took place in 2011, in the area called 24 de Marzo in Petare and the second intervention was in Zona 7 of José Félix Ribas, also in Petare. By 2013, the team expanded and two more Échale Color interventions were developed: the first in the Carabobo estate in Colegio Madre Misionera and the second in the area of San Miguel I, in la Cota 905 within the Libertador municipality.
Thanks to all the volunteers, the involvement of local residents, the voluntary support of VODO Arquitectos and the contribution of sponsors like Edicom and Pinturas Montana, who provide paint, brushes, rollers and other materials, these interventions were a success.
Earlier this October, a new intervention took place in Las Minas de Baruta in Caracas. With this latest Échale Color, Somos Posible undertook five interventions in three municipalities of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas and a municipality of Carabobo estate.
As well as Venezuela, Jamaica has also joined the paint movement. Paint Jamaica is an initiative which has has an extremely positive impact on the local community of Parade Gardens. This program started in July 2014 when Jamaican artists together with a French traveller decided to bring some art into the streets of Kingston with the idea of revolutionising the streets through art and local talent.
Paint Jamaica is also a social cause willing to promote peace round Kingston’s inner cities. Thanks to social media and other crowdfunding campaigns, they have received support from hundreds of volunteers, the music label Tuff Gong Worlwide and Ziggy Marley.
Interventions like the ones described above help by transferring new skills and inspiring individuals to express themselves. Furthermore, the mere act of changing the visual landscape helps in reducing crime and littering.
As one member of Paint Jamaica states, “people have told us that when you beautify a street, locals are more likely to want to protect and preserve it… hence keeping unlawful possibilities”.
In places like Venezuela or Jamaica, where society is so polarized, creativity works as a positive magnet that brings in influx of people (including newcomers) who have never walked on their impoverished neighbourhoods.
Artistic interventions also boost a sense of pride among residents, the sense of community is strengthened, new opportunities arise for local residents, and public spaces become hubs for local artists to display their work.
The street becomes the future of art. It is the ideal spot where everyone, with no distinction, can contemplate and be directly linked with the message behind the piece.