The Favela Painting Project was founded in 2005 by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, better known as Haas&Hahn, who came to Rio armed with a bag of ideas and a small grant. Jeroen Koolhaas used his background as a graphic designer to create three-dimensional designs while former journalist and copywriter Dre Urhahn focused on concept and strategy. Their joint efforts yielded three enormous paintings, attracting attention from all over the world.
Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn have a passion for urban transformation. Both grew up steeped in architectural theory and both have fathers or uncles who are noted urban planners in Holland. Yet this Dutch artist duo – who operate under the moniker Haas&Hahn – affect change not through books and discourse, but through exploring other cultures on the ground, whether it be in the streets of North Philadelphia, favelas of Rio de Janeiro or shantytowns in Haiti.
Working in underserved communities, they mobilize and inspire locals to reinvent their own neighborhood through extraordinary art projects of massive scale. Their work in Brazil spawned sister projects worldwide and in 2011 the duo moved to North Philadelphia to revitalize a downtrodden commercial strip by mobilizing local youth to paint the facades of buildings a rainbow of riotous color. Watch this video to learn more about Haas&Hahn’s quest to use art to change the lives of people who live in socially troubled neighborhoods.
They have been invited to present their work on many occasions, ranging from a show at the United Nations Head Quarters to lectures at universities across the world. In 2014 Haas&Hahn had the honor to be invited to TED Global, held in Rio de Janeiro, to speak about their projects. Watch this funny and inspiring talk, in which Haas&hahn explain their art-first approach — and the importance of a neighborhood barbecue. As they work on a multitude of projects, they travel to paint and explore communities worldwide and pursue their dream: to organize community members to paint an entire favela hill!
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