This summer, we had the chance to experience ArtScape Festival in Värmland, Sweden, were the festival wrapped up with a 28 artists line-up, from all over the world and 33 pieces of art, which not only include murals, but also installations and collective murals with the community.
Their past editions in Malmö and Gothemburg have a very symbolic significance, not only for the urban landscape, but for the Scandinavian culture as well. Gothenburg was well known for their zero tolerance to any kind of public and Street art, but ArtScape resulted a great success, acomplishing 18 pieces of public art. The festival made the 10 cartiers of the city to get involved with the project, from dowtown to the suburbs, this was a groundbreaking concept showcasing what ArtScape is all about: Bringing art to the people.
We had a little interview with the founders of ArtScape, and this is what they told us about this edition.
Enriqueta: How and why did you come up with the idea of creating Artscape’s first edition?
Tor: At the time I was running an art gallery in Malmö where I combined well renowned artists with local artists, trying to showcase new and exciting art to the public. I started looking into doing a project around street art in 2012 and contacted Daniel, my old friend from school who had more experience when it came to street art. We started to discuss the idea and and almost two years later we were ready to start Artscape. This was in 2014 when Sweden’s capital Stockholm still had a zero tolerance policy against graffiti and street art so doing a street art festival was unheard in Sweden. Even big scale murals were very scarce. Looking back it was crazy how many meetings we had and all the laws, rules and regulations we had to study and work through (and around) to get the first edition of Artscape of the ground… But totally worth it!!
Daniel: I had kind of given up on Sweden to be honest. I was based in London and did work all over Europe when me and Tor started talking. He convinced me Sweden was ready and coming back to my home town to make the country’s first ever big mural festival was an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on!
E: After the past editions, besides the fact that you guys are expanding the festival so much, what is one of the most significant things you have been experienced doing Artscape 2017?
T: I would have to say that bringing art to communities that almost had no public art and the response we got as a result was heartwarming and amazing. Many festivals, including Artscape’s previous festivals, takes place in larger cities where there are so many other things going on. Even if we usually make sure to be active in different city environments to tie the cities together as a whole this was something else entirely. Being able to connect a whole county by art and getting such a great response from all of its inhabitants is an amazing feeling.
D: I think we raise the bar just the perfect amount each year. We move around and go bigger each project, but not just for the sake of going bigger. The concept of involving ten municipalities in the same project and letting them stand side by side in a natural way, despite the extreme differences in size and financial muscle, was a great reason to go really BIG this year.
E: For you, what is the meaning of public art and what do you want to tell–your mission–with Artscape to the people?
D: Art in institutions and galleries is unfortunately hard to access by a large chunk of the population. Mainly because it can be perceived as an excluding environment. Putting art where everyone can experience it enables us to reach more and different people, compared to if we ran a gallery or similar. Artscape’s mission is primarily to inspire people and show that art is for everyone!
T: I think this art form is as public as art can get and probably the most democratic art form. We try to show a wide spectrum of it as well as include the public in the creation. Competing with both advertising and in some ways the more classic public fine art is not always easy, but it all seems to be heading in right direction. Enabling others to work with art in the public space is absolutely one of our main missions and it is rewarding when we notice a change for the better after each project we do.
E: If you could give any advice to your youngest “you”, like back in the days, when you guys first started creating the project, what would it be?
D: If I could go back 10 years I would tell myself to buy some art from the guys I was working with back then haha!
The one piece of advice I would give 2014-Daniel, when Artscape started, would be to take more pictures. For budget reasons our documentation was insufficient during the first two years and we have really suffered from the lack of photos/videos.
T: Haha, it’s never too late to start your collection Daniel!
I think there is a lot I could have told myself to make it all so much easier but I think the journey is as important as the result, so having all the answers from start would probably take away from the great fun that is Artscape.
E: What is the best experience / most memorable one, of any of the editions that you want to tell us about?
D: Doing these kind of projects is a constant adventure and very intense. Working in the streets, in the public domain, demand that we adapt and react to an unlimited stream of human beings every single second of a project. It’s hard but amazing!
We have too many good stories to really choose one..
My least favourite is being mic’ed up for a TV interview and then falling out with the reporter when she couldn’t work the camera, walking off and complaining explicitly to Tor how rude the reporter was…and then realizing the mic is on… Still makes me cringe two years later! The ensuing interview was awkward to say the least!!
T: Best experience is probably all the people we meet just in general. The reactions from the public, the great artists and their work, the help from city employees and volunteers, the list can go on and on. That and the change that these kind of projects brings that makes all the hard work worth it.
Back in 2014 there was a zero tolerance-policy in our capital and we had many people wanting us to fail when we created Sweden’s first street art festival ever. Just as we finished our first project and it had been a success someone filed a complaint regarding our building permits which could have resulted in all the murals created during the festival would’ve had to be buffed. With no budget for lawyer fees we took to the books and our partners to gather a defence. It went to the highest court in Sweden where we won. It was a painful process but it created a standard for anyone who wants to paint big murals in Sweden which of course feels great.
E: What would you like to do next?
D & T: We are already working on projects for 2018 and 2019. Artscape as an organization isn’t geographically bound and we will likely do international projects outside Sweden soon. We aren’t locked down to the mural festival concept either. That is something that is still new and fresh in Sweden, but we will certainly do projects in a different format in the future.
For us, as guests of the festival, we could experienced one of the most well organized festivals, in terms of logistics, and also considering the festival was taking place from July 24 July to 18 August in different towns around Värmland: Arvika, Filipstad, Forshaga, Grums, Karlstad, Kristinehamn, Munkfors, Sunne, Säffle, Torsby and Årjäng. The size of the festival, in that sense, and the time they were taking with every mural is a very interesting dynamic, related with all of the mural festivals and public art festivals happening around the world.
The experience to being in such an amazing landscape and the discover this cities, and their people’s reactions about what is beautifying their community re-significates and make us validate something we’ve seen all over the world and its loosing its meaning in so many levels. With ArtScape, the meaning is still there and the impact of what they do as well. We are very strong about the fact, is not all about mural festivals anymore, but what makes that mural festival to have an important effect and message in that specific area, country, city, etcetera… and what is left behind with the community.
The roaster of artists this year was full of friends and great names and amazing people, like Pantonio, Pastel, Ledania, Smug, BKFOXX, Yash, Vexta, Nomad Clan, Annatomix, Hitotzuki, Zadok, Tatiana Suarez, Hyuro, Wild Drawing, Sagie, Super-G, Henric Thag, Bordalo, Faith 47, Case Maclaim, Caratoes and Shalak & Smoky.
Until next time, ArtScape! Thank you so much for letting us be part of such and special project!
Interview by Enriqueta
Images provided by ArtScape Festival