Street artists: dealing with the relationship between them and São Paulo

Published by on behalf of the sprint master Renato Endo

Acknowledging street artists and shifting the relationship between street art and the city of São Paulo

Street art has followed the development of cities since the beginning of middle to modern society. Many street artists have played a vital role in their local cultures while contributing to world-wide cultures as well.

Many world-renowned artists once started their expression of art on the streets of big cities. Loreena McKennitt, George Michael, Sting, Rod Stewart, Benjamin Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Robin Williams, B. B. King and so on, all of them started performing to the public audience without any infrastructure and full of hope and determination before being discovered and taken inside studios and sold-out concerts.

In an economic structure where networking and connections play a big role, starting by focusing directly on your audience in this close but harsh relationship created by the streets can create the buzz and awareness needed to jumpstart an amazing journey to impact more people, and if it’s the goal, success and fame.

Street artists and their role in urban culture

Studying the role played by street art across the 20th century can tell us a lot about Brazilian political history. From the flood of street artists such as painters, musicians and capoeira fighters on the early 1900’s, to their scourge to criminality by the dictatorial regime on the mid 1900’s, then to their struggle to gain more awareness after the dictatorship’s fall, then finally being acknowledged as a form of art and work by the government a couple of years ago.

Street art became complex. Paint tags gave place to complex and colorful graffiti. Single musicians gave place to whole bands with astonishing music quality, and street performers started to create big interactive numbers with their audience. Suddenly the streets became a huge stage, but it still had poor infrastructure.

We first started to think about working with street art after gaining awareness of how fast this community of quality and complexity was growing on the streets of downtown São Paulo.

Brainstorming sessions tried to find the reasons for such growth and how we could create impact within such a community. First assumptions created a correlation between the growth of street artists with the economic hardship Brazil was facing. After brainstorming sessions, the work team assumed regular people with art skills, but lack of opportunities at the traditional work space were migrating to the street to survive and still create an income.

Understanding the relationship between streets and artists

Before ethnography sessions, the general consensus of our team was that the motivation for these artists to work on the streets was mostly financial issues due to lack of opportunities or as an income complement.

With that in mind, we went to the streets to start interviewing artists. The amount of relevant information gathered was outstanding, giving new horizons for the team to work with. Every tool applied changed our perception about how we would interact and process all the new insights.

After that, we found that the artist’s greatest motivation was using the art as a way to connect with people. Working on the streets was not a need, but an option. Our perception changed greatly after interviewing and interacting with artists, making us discard all preconceived ideas created at the beginning of the project.

Step by step, the amount of data generated started to build a solid foundation to better create an impact service for street artists. The co-creation sessions with the artists created the most important insights.

The co-creation sessions resulted on a pool of actions looking to enhance the artists’ touchpoints with their audience, and to facilitate their art expression. Among all the alternatives the most valuable ones were the development of an easy-to-transport structure meeting the artists’ basic needs, and an online platform focused on publishing the artists’ works.

The project: street artists and their journey throughout the city

With reliable information regarding the subject, a close relationship with the client and a pool of insights and potential solutions, we felt confident enough to create an impact service to improve the journey of street artists. Based on the team’s skill set and expertise, the platform focused on publishing the artists’ work was chosen to continue the project. The platform is being developed with close engagement and participation of its future clients, and its schedule to go online by the end of 2015. There are great expectations regarding the project from different communities.


  • After ethnography sessions, the work team found that the artists’ greatest motivation was using the art as a way to connect with people. Working on the streets was an option, not a necessity. The team’s perception changed greatly after interviewing the artists, making them discard all preconceived ideas created at the beginning of the project.
  • Concentration of artists at São Paulo’s downtown is related to historical tradition due the great concentration of people. Other places of great concentration are not properly availed.
  • Artists get in contact with a lot of opportunities on the streets, but despite their art skills, other skills related with public relationship and marketing are often poor, diminishing their possibilities to seize such opportunities.