At 5 on Friday, Abril 17, onlookers watched as the sidewalk of outside of CC Ricardo Palma transformed into an art studio. Usually a private space, six urban artists invited all of Lima into their artistic processes. Of course, these urban artists are more accustomed to the street than your average painter, their canvases being construction walls late at night. Art Jam, however, put a spotlight on these stelth artists in order to celebrate them. Friends, family, art fiends, and curious foreigners all gathered around to watch the spectacle take place in front of them.
At around six, the art of setting up the canvases, lights and art supplies was over, and the artists were all given the same colored pens as they began their masterpiece. The artists had three hours to complete the task. They were to use their limited colored markers to make a masterpiece. In the corner of the canvas had an individualized bar code which you could scan on your smartphone to vote for your favorite. Once initial anticipation of the artists beginning their work, with the first scribbles on the canvas in one color, music began to blare from a speaker and free red bulls were handed out to the artists, as well as a few special guests. If one got bored of watching the artistic process, the basement of the cultural center was open to guests. The affiliated exhibition featured all the participants work from years past, which made the guests feel like they were becoming a part of history, the legacy that is Art Jam.
Art Jam has become just that, as the additional gallery in the basement of the cultural center proved. The walls were lined with artwork from years past, all the way to the first event in 2012. The works featured everything from political statements calling for peace and artistic freedom, to a neon Buddha staring at the viewer with his third eye. The gallery revealed reoccuring artists that have returned over the years, such as Mask, who dropped by to sign the wall below one of his pieces from the past. Of course, it is no surprise that the urban artists come back every year- the hosts are cool artists working to foster a sense of community, and the gallery offered free alchoholic beverages and electronic beats by a local DJ.
All of the artists had a distinct style and unique process that you could see in the first stroke. The artist known as Fog went to work of the tedious task of making concentrated dots. Two hours later, the guests were awed by the honest and intricate portrayal of a human heart with several narrow eyes breaking through a brick wall. Caro Paz, on the other hand, began her work like a race horse who knows the first leaps give you a starting advantage, making bold lines with a black marker to form a lion’s face and using the rest of the time to layer colors and intricate designs into the face. Then she took out her bold black marker to spell the word, “Libérate,” below the lion, as if the word was its roar. The only other girl in the competition was a young sweet looking girl who calls herself Vitaminas. She drew a whimsical fairy warrior girl attached to a bird. Lama, an older man than the rest, began his work by making black diagonal lines across the page and ended with an elaborate comic strip that told a beautiful story about a very sad woman. Other artists made an anthropomorphic double decker bus and a grinning hillbilly.
The heartwarming pictures each artist took with their family and friends indicated that this was an intimate affair, even for the seasoned artists. As each artist finished and signed their work, the eager crowd gathered in the gallery to hear the winner anounced. Anticipation was pulsating through the crowd and cameras were clicking incessantly. Both prizes were awarded to the only two girls in the competition, with Vitaminas taking home second place and Caro Paz coming out the victor. As she posed for the cameras, onlookers stayed in the gallery for another look at the outstanding art that surrounded them while familiar songs played in the background. While no one predict what the next round of artists will produce, one thing is clear: I will certainly attend the next Art Jam.
Sarah Dunn is a writer, photographer, and actor who explores the intersection of politics and art. She has published several articles and makes short films in her spare time.
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