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Dutch muralists of Philly Painting crowdfunding Rio favela project

The Dutch pair of muralists behind one of the bolder corridor transformations in Philadelphia’s storied Mural Arts history is crowdfunding for a project in Brazil that they say will be the largest piece of community artwork ever.

The Dutch pair of muralists behind one of the bolder corridor transformations in Philadelphia’s storied Mural Arts history is crowdfunding for a project in Brazil that they say will be the largest piece of community artwork ever.

With just a week left, they have just two-thirds of their $100,000 goal.

Haas and Hahn, who first spoke about their plans to paint an entire stretch of Germantown Avenue in Fairhill at TEDxPhilly 2011, gained international acclaim for their early work in the favelas of Rio in 2007.

They returned in 2008 and now want to go back for a third time, to complete a full colorful and uniform project unifying a sprawling hill ghetto. Support their Kickstarter here.

The duo, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, began their planning fall 2011 and spent their year residency living and working in their North Philadelphia neighborhood, even spinning out a street art brand called Philly Painting, under which they trained community members and launched a limited edition sneaker in their native Amsterdam.

In February, Urhahn and this reporter sat in Bottle Bar East in Fishtown. His partner Koolhaas was back home in the Netherlands visiting his wife and child, and the pair were at a decision point. Their year residency was nearing completion in Philadelphia, a place Urhahn in particular had come to love, Amsterdam was full of family but their work in the Rio favelas still felt incomplete.

“This was always a project we wanted to return to,” he said. But there was another location in play: Brooklyn, home to crowdfunding giant Kickstarter, hundreds of big potential donors and a new community of likely friends and supporters.

Urhahn, tall, talkative and cosmopolitan in that distinctly European way, was worried about perception, it seemed. “I know how artists in Philadelphia sometimes feel about going to New York,” he said then, smiling, “like it’s selling out.”

[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1953408692/painting-an-entire-favela-in-rio-de-janeiro width=640]

“But my heart is back in Rio, and this seems like the best way to get there,” he said. So he moved to Brooklyn this summer, worked with Kickstarter staff to launch the campaign and has been talking up the effort.

“The painting crew in Brazil, led by Angelo Campos, is ready and waiting. Jeroen and myself can’t wait to get started, but it’s up to you to really make it happen,” Urhahn wrote in an email to supporters.

But isn’t their residency just a unicorn, a passing fellowship that placed international public art icons in Philadelphia for a short period of time and they’re gone, off to Brooklyn and then Brazil? Urhahn says no, that their Germantown Avenue project was an intensely personal one. That living in that rowhome near the Village of Arts and Humanities wasn’t just a gimmick.

“Philadelphia is a place I could live and build an organization that could help show how art can transform community. This is a place full of people who care.” Urhahn said earlier this year, between sips of imported Belgium beer. “The favelas are our life’s work, but this won’t be the last time I’m in Philadelphia.”

Companies: Kickstarter / Mural Arts Program

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