Elaine Masters a RoamRight Blog Author

Discovering Rio’s Street Art

Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. CT

Entering Rio de Janeiro at night is deceiving. The vibrant city is gorgeous after dark but its spirit is muted. During the day in the Centro and Southern (Zona Sul) neighborhoods, color and pattern are everywhere, from bright clothing and rhinestones embellishments, to sidewalks along the beaches with their undulating stonework and the iconic, stone pinnacles covered in lush greens that soar above the bays. A gallery of murals and tile work really gets to the heart of the city. Rio’s walls tell startling stories. For the uninitiated it’s a surprise. While most urban areas spend millions to remove graffiti, Brazil has elevated it to a completely different level.

The government passed a law in 2009 that made street art and graffiti legal if done with the consent of building owners. It sounds progressive but may have been the best way to handle a movement that showed no signs of abating. Ten years earlier, Rio brought together 35 graffiti artists to showcase their local styles for the 1999 “Nao pixe, grafite” (Don’t tag, Graffiti) project. Currently the city’s proudest graffiti artists sign their work or add Facebook sites.

Today huge murals and small illustrations pepper neighborhoods. Rio’s urban art can transform them as well. Such is the case with the Chilean tile artist and painter, Jorge Selaron, who took a staircase straddling the Lama and Santa Teresa districts and turned it from a dodgy district into a treasured site and subsequent tourist destination.

After making Rio his home, Selaron lived adjacent to the stairs and began scavenging tiles from construction sites and refuse. Soon he was tirelessly embellishing the steps and walls between Joaquim Silva and Pinto Martins Streets. First ridiculed, his vision soon had people donating tiles from around the world and he also added several featuring his most famous icon – an image with his face and handlebar mustache attached to a pregnant woman’s torso.

Today tour buses and visitor maps bring crowds to the Escadaria Selaron, the Selaron Stairs, daily. It’s also been featured in music videos by the likes of Snoop Dogg and U2, on hundreds of Instagram and Facebook albums and a thousand different places. If you go, save a few minutes to hike the full length of the stairs, which have been made into an impromptu shrine to the artist who died under suspicious circumstances in 2013 and was made an honorary Rio resident or Carioca.

Where is your favorite piece of street art?

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About the Author

Elaine Masters

Elaine Masters, a RoamRight Blog Author Elaine is constantly in motion. She's called most of the major cities along the U.S. west coast home and travels or scuba dives as often as possible (Her latest passport is almost out ofpages.) The one constant has been writing and she's contributedto numerous publications and blogs as well as her own,TripWellness.com. Flytime Yoga was founded through her yoga practice, including a session at 30,000 feet on a dive trip flight to Fiji. Her Indie Excellence award-winning Drivetime Yoga techniques have helped RV and bus drivers, police officers andother travelers get where they're going feeling great atDrivetimeYoga.com. She podcastsThe Gathering Roadweekly and brings authors and experts together with travelers at monthlyTravel Well meetupsin San Diego. Follow Elaine onLinkedIn,Pinterest,Facebook,TwitterandGoogle Plus.

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