Street Art Bergen

What happened when a small Norwegian city set out to become the Nordic street art capital.

“Hey you!”

“Don’t you dare try to remove that nice painting!” the old lady yells.

The street artist lets his shoulders drop and relaxes a bit.
“Don’t worry,” he yells back. “I’m not taking it down, I’m putting it up!”

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Postman Pat by Snurre.

While most street artists have horror stories of nightly police chases, street artists in Bergen mostly tell of pleasant interactions with the public. Many of them make their art in broad daylight.

Some years ago I followed the French stencil artist C215 around Bergen. I marvelled at how he could spend twenty minutes on a complex painting in the middle of the afternoon, with people and cars constantly passing him in the street.

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French artist C215 at work in Bergen.
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David Hasselhoff stencil by La Staa

Don’t misunderstand; painting on someone else’s property is still illegal. But what about painting on a grey wall that nobody is using very much? It may technically be illegal, but it won’t get you arrested.

So what are the most important things Bergen has done to encourage street art? Here are seven steps the city has taken support this artistic and cultural phenomenon:

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Decorated electrical box.
  1. The city gives grants for international street artists to come and paint in Bergen. Bergen Street Art, a local group of artists, works to get walls for them, and puts them up for collaboration with local street artists.
  2. There are several legal walls in the city, where everyone can paint what they like at any time. They are mostly used by graffiti artists.
  3. In 2014, Bergen presented its first “Street Artist of the Year” award. The first recipient was John_xc, the man behind the Bergen Street Art group (and the guy with the painting we met in the beginning of this story).
  4. There are zones in the city where street art is not to be removed straight away.
  5. W ith local artists as teachers, Bergen hosts workshops for young people on how to make street art and graffiti.
  6. Bergen recently spent 6000 euro on framing the works of Dolk, one of the most prominent early street artists in the city.
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Paste-up by Muskelpust
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Stencil by Vest
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Communication geek. Old school hip-hop head. Comic book reviewer in an actual newspaper. Co-author of a book on the strange and wonderful street art in Bergen.

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