The miracle of an unfinished museum and a town that was once again rediscovered | I think, then I act

Nobody said that the history of a town could not reinvent itself in its walls. Nor that two people who had stopped talking could not find themselves in graffiti. It is probable that there is no trip longer than that of a wall painted telling the story in the present of a town and its neighbors, reinvented, rediscovering themselves.

We are in Fanzara, Castellón: 281 inhabitants and an unfinished museum of urban art, the MIAU: without doors, without tickets, with nothing more than the facades of the houses, the neighbors and the artists. It could be this that I will tell you a good formula for the resolution of international conflicts or a good model for the revitalization of the rural world in the, increasingly present, empty Spain. But no. This is the particular experience of a small town on the coast where artists and art arrived five years ago to help recover the coexistence among neighbors that one day broke.

But, eye spoiler: all here - artists, neighbors and art - came out winning. Because, when you start to coexist aiming at the deep, the process goes through you from top to bottom, wherever you come from.

Javi and Rafa.
Javi and Rafa.

The moment of fracture

In Fanzara there is a river, the Mijares, surrounded by mountains. A good part of its 34.5 square kilometers of surface is populated by large extensions of forest, a small natural paradise at the gates of the National Park of the Sierra de Espadán. In Fanzara, for the rest, there are barely two bars, a bakery, a small grocery store, a hermitage, a hairdresser and a lot of very old people. One day there was a City Council project to install a landfill of toxic and dangerous waste in the town. And that was the fracture. "There were families who stopped talking; groups of friends who separated; complaints between neighbors ... the cohabitation became totally chaotic ", explains Rafa Gascó one of the precursors of the MIAU.

The town, as it happens in so many families, was divided in two: those of "yes" to the landfill, that perhaps wanted to see the labor opportunities that the project could offer; and those of the "no", who saw that this project would end the natural wealth of the town and with all those around.

In the block of "no" they organized themselves as a platform and began to mobilize in the streets, to present judicial claims, to make noise, a lot of noise. Until they understood that, if the project came from the City Council, what had to change was that: in 2011, those of the "no" came to the consistory and the first step they took was to eliminate the idea of ​​landfill and with it, the danger of your toxic waste.

What lasted-it was clear-was the social fracture within the town. "The thing was so bad, that at least we aspired to be able to greet us on the street."

Urban art to recover coexistence

In one of the first artistic interventions of the MIAU, on the walls of the workshop of one of the neighbors of the town, Roman, appeared painted giant hands, mountainous, worn. From the Italian collective FX, after spending the afternoon with him, they asked him: "How did you win your life?" And Román, without hesitation, thought about what had been his and his family's sustenance: " Me, with these hands. " And that they painted, the hands of Roman as a symbol of the hardness of the rural world, of work in the field, of the history of that small town of 281 inhabitants that today is Fanzara.

This museum of urban art is made, above all, of conversation, of encounter, of hospitality. That was the idea, the solution proposal, which he won at that time when many people in the town were no longer speaking. "We thought that trying to bring together two people who get along like that because it was going to be very complicated. We turn to the artists a bit like Guinea pigs, by placing them between two people who do not get along very well. It seemed to us simply that it could work, not that there was a study on which to base ourselves. We only tried to make the artist act as an intermediary between the neighbors ", explains Javier López, also founder and organizer of the MIAU.

A social and artistic experiment or, as Javier explains, "a kind of dream that we did not know if it would turn out well".

Javier and Rafa managed to convince their neighbors - remember that the average age is still in Fanzara over 70 years - with the idea that they could reinvent the town through an open-air museum, in which the exhibitors would be the facades of their houses and where they would welcome any artist who, voluntarily, wanted to mix with them and exhibit their work. Where the invisible thread of the relations between them, their lives, would end up exposed to the open air 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A groundbreaking project without previous references -even for a London neighborhood- was landing in a village of less than 300 inhabitants.

Mural of the Unfinished Museum of Urban Art.
Mural of the Unfinished Museum of Urban Art.

Referent in the world of world urban art

The beginnings were not easy. "We spent three years trying to find an artist interested to explain the project," says Javier. Finally, they managed to get close to the collective Mur-murs, from Menorca, dedicated to urban art, which helped them present the idea to other artists.

Suddenly, in just three months, they had gotten the participation of 21 artists, among them, some of the most recognized in the country as Deih; Julieta Xlf; Escif, 'the Valencian banksy'; Hombrelópez or Susie Hammer, among others. In September the MIAU was inaugurated: four days of coexistence that left 44 artistic interventions. "We had bought white paint to spare if all the interventions had to be removed," Javier explains. "At the beginning we only had five walls donated by the City Council and another five of the neighbors, but seeing the quality of the works, more and more neighbors were offering their facades."

And, precisely because of the growing enthusiasm of the fanzarenses, the MIAU has been growing as they have chosen: the neighbors began to welcome the artists in their homes and to assume organizational tasks; workshops and guided tours began to be held throughout the year and, today, there is no weekend that the town is not crowded with the camera on its shoulder. "In Fanzara there is only one school with 14 students, but the town is often full of children, full buses arriving to do workshops, to see the paintings on the walls. That is also life for the people. "

For the people behind the MIAU it is very important that the museum continues to respect the rhythms of its most prized works, the people. "All this will last until the neighbors want it to be so, because the project depends on them, as well as the volunteers of the artists." Here everyone is clear that it is not about climbing upwards, but about gaining depth: "The project is still small and sustainable. You could paint the whole town, but that would not be our project, it would stop being a project of coexistence, "they explain.

Unsuspectedly, that first experience also served to put the town very high on the world art scene. "A specialized magazine cataloged the intervention" The Visitor ", by the Valencian artist Deih, as one of the 20 best interventions in the world. Nothing else to start! " Today, the artistic experience of Fanzara is known and recognized throughout the world and by the people have not stopped spending first class artists like Axel Void, Bifido, Boa Mistura, Carlos Callizo, Dan Ferrer, Jofre Oliveras or Elsa Guerra, for name only some.

A round trip exchange

The first to offer the wall of his house to artists, he admits, was not at all convinced. "But then you see the harmony that is created between the artists and the villagers and you end up getting hooked. Five years later, I'm looking forward to July for the MIAU to begin, the artists are now our best friends. "

To tell the story, all agree that the most beautiful thing that has been created with the MIAU is not just the facades full of art, but that link and that exchange, which goes from one place to another and that expands far beyond the four days of coexistence. "They are artists who have traveled a lot," explains Rafa. "Through this exchange, the townspeople can travel abroad through the story of artists and artists, who tend to be from larger cities, have the opportunity to approach and soak up the rural world."

The unfinished experience of Fanzara is, in reality, an endless journey and an essential reminder: people are made to meet us.

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Content adapted from the video


Fanzara is a town in Castellón where 281 people live and in 2005 a toxic waste dump divided the neighbors in favor or against. In 2011 after the stoppage of the landfill, Javi, Rafa and a group of neighbors decided to recover the good conviviality by creating MIAU the unfinished museum of urban art. Today more than 120 artists have passed through the town to paint their mural.


(Javi) Here at the time of the crisis, there was no work here, there were no people coming and there were shops that were in danger of disappearing. In the year 2005 what happens is that through the City Council that had at that time, comes a project to the town that is the installation of a treatment plant and a landfill of toxic and dangerous waste. And that is what provokes a strong division in the town between neighbors who were favorable to that project and neighbors who were not favorable to that project.


(Javi) What happened during those years to explain it briefly is that there were families who stopped talking, there were groups of friends who fell apart and were lifelong friends.


(Rafa) They were very strong moments, very unpleasant.


(Javi) Moments to forget.


(Javi) The main problem that the people had was coexistence, had somehow return to recover that coexistence that had been before, at least greet us in the street when we saw each other. Rafa and I shared this idea of ​​trying to do a project where we invited people to the town that could live with our neighbors.


(Rafa) The original project was to transform the entire town into a museum.


(Rafa) What we did was an assembly and invite all the people to explain the project and the people looked at us then, as if to say "these ... these have gone crazy".


(José) At first I took a little, half joke, that is, what will happen? Instead, I love it now.


(Javi) Inside the MIAU the neighbors are the ones that lodge the artists.


(Rafa) Through this exchange people from here could go out and the artists who tend to be from very big cities could go to the rural world. They trusted us and said "ala, pues adelante". That's when they began to leave walls, they began to collaborate.


(Javi) We think of it in a way that tries to bring together two people who get along like this because it will be very complicated. We artists, although they know badly, we use them a bit like guinea pigs, we tried a bit to find that the artist was an intermediary between the neighbors.


(Roman) If that has changed, it's a nice atmosphere, a party atmosphere.


(Rafa) The town did not know exactly what they were going to do then they were all in expectation.


(Javi) It is a social project of coexistence through art, to us it has been worth for people to lose a little that fear of what they call graffiti.


(Ana) Chanted by all the residents of the municipality, because it is difficult to make them understand this art.


(Amparo) I like everyone, I see them and I like them all.


(Javi) And we were also interested in a connection between neighbors and artists.


(Amparo) And that has given life to the people, because the old people are not worth anything.


(Javi) The MIAU project does not live on what they paint us if they do not live on what artists live with our neighbors. What surprises us is that this type of artists would like to come and collaborate in this project. To live the experience of being here living with them and leaving us something of their work, is that we do not ask for anything else.


(José) Well, I'm telling you, I'm waiting every year for them to come.

This content has been developed by Yoigo.


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