Having been exploring how art can transform communities for a number of years, I was super excited to be accepted onto the ‘Favela Painting Academy’ for a two week workshop run by Dutch artists Haas&Hahn.  I have admired these guys for years, in many ways they are hero’s to me, so the chance to spend two weeks learning from them was a big deal.


Haas&Hahn have developed a global reputation for achieving outstanding community art projects in deprived areas around the world from Brazil to Haiti. You can hear them talk about their work in the TED talk posted above. They have achieved beautiful projects that empower local residents through teaching skills as well as transforming the reputation and daily life of deprived neighbourhoods through painting entire communities in stunning Technicolor.


The workshop was held in their studio on the island of Curacao in the Caribbean. Along with 5 other international students and a dynamic group of locals, we had the chance to get to grips with how to pull off large scale community art projects. We explored issues of funding, creating community ownership of a project, the longevity of projects and design in public spaces among many other things. These discussions led us to the point of creating a large community artwork in the second week.


As we transitioned from the studio to the street, the learning focused on the practical process of choosing and preparing a building/wall, scaling a design up onto a wall and eventually painting and executing the final piece with the involvement of members of the community. The whole process was fascinating to be a part of, I feel I learnt so much and gained valuable experience in an area I’m passionate about exploring further.  It was a real privilege to have artists like this help me develop my craft as an artist.  I’m excited to see what I’ve learnt work itself out as we continue as YWAM York to work in deprived communities around the world.


If you are an artist reading this and are passionate about how art can transform communities, I’d love to connect with you.  If there is one thing to take away from this workshop, it is the huge potential for art and artists to be catalysts for change in areas of the world that most people forget.  As we learn to connect our creativity with other likeminded voices in our communities, these collaborations can create new possibilities, new realities that bring hope and fresh dreams to those that need them most.


Dave Nevard




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