Favela Painting Project

The Favela Painting project started in 2005 when dutch artists Haas&Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) had the idea of creating public artworks in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Not just to beautify, but also to create a dialogue with their surroundings. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colors yielded worldwide fame and transformed Rio into 'one of the world’s 10 most colorful places', according to CNN. Haas&Hahn were invited to show their work at the New York based gallery Storefront for Art & Architecture, followed by an invitation from the Philadelphia Mural Arts program to paint several complete blocks in a dilapidated area in North Philly. The artists get invited worldwide to teach, to speak about their work, consult cities on community art projects and look at possible locations for future projects. They have recently restored their first painting in Rio and are currently planning a grand return to paint an entire favela.

Over the years the Favela Painting Project has grown into a professional organization, based in the Netherlands. It’s focus is: mobilizing people to transform their own communities into social art works of monumental size, to beautify and inspire, combat prejudice and attract positive attention, while offering opportunity and economic stimulus.

Favela Painting is:
Dre Urhahn (founder) - social management
Jeroen Koolhaas (founder) -  art direction
Ambar Surastri - operations
Willa Stoutenbeek - press and media
Omar Kbiri - web
Seven Halsema - documentation
Coen Bergman - fundraiser
Aernoud Bourdrez - legal and IP
Barend Koolhaas - assistant design
Nanna Kassenaar - art production and exhibits
Angelo Campos - crew leader Rio
Valter Filho - project assistant Rio
Huub van Boeckel - advisory board
Orvie Kleberg and Noel Stuart - bookkeeping


The design for the first project was chosen together with local people. It depicts a boy playing with a kite, a symbol for every child in Brazil’s favela’s. It took two months to realize and was painted together with Vitor and Maurinho. The painting has recently been restored completely, after it was faded by the sun and covered in bullet holes from the ongoing war between drug gangs and the police. You can see a video about the restoration here.

This project covered a complete street in Vila Cruzeiro. Giant slabs of concrete protected the hill from mudslides during the rainy season and - resembling a river of concrete, inspired Haas&Hahn to paint it. The japanese design, complete with Koi carp, was made by master tattoo artist Rob Admiraal. It took Vitor, Robinho, Geovani and us more than 8 months to complete the 7000 square meter design, that can be seen on google earth!

New design methods allowed for more people to work at the same time. A group of 25 local youth were trained and hired. In just a little over a month we painted a complete square in the community of Santa Marta, completely transforming the image of the favela. It has changed from a no-go-area into a famous tourist attraction.