Sao Paulo artists create cultural center in abandoned building

World Today

A group of artists has turned an abandoned building in central Sao Paulo into a cultural center. There is a standing eviction order against them, but the artists are hoping to persuade authorities to let them stay. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral takes us inside the artists’ enclave.

For about two decades, a building in central Sao Paulo remained unused. Three years ago, a group of artists, looking for a place to live and create, occupied the building and turned it into cultural center. Nearly 100 people occupy the building’s 13 floors, living and making art of all kinds. Despite the obvious infrastructure deficiencies, it has become a safe haven for artists, with some coming from other states in Brazil and still others from different Latin American countries.

Alexia Gomes was a fashion model. But when her career ended, she found a new talent making clothes out of recycled materials.

“With this old umbrella I can make a skirt,” Alexia said. “I have been making a series of pin-up style skirts with them, and girls like them a lot. You see, it’s a beautiful umbrella but it doesn’t work. It’s easy to make a nice skirt.”

The building belongs to the state of Sao Paulo and there’s a standing eviction order against the artists who have been living and working there since 2014. So far, authorities have not enforced it, but it could happen at any time.

In an email to CGTN, city and state authorities wrote “the building at Quvidor Street is for sale.”  Still, the artists here hope they will be able to stay where they are.

“By staying, we are fulfilling a social function for this building,” said artist Sirius Amen.” It was abandoned, falling in pieces and full of rats and cockroaches. Now we have people here living, creating and researching art.”

“In the central area of Sao Paulo, the local government tells us we have about 300 to 400 empty buildings,” Kazuo Nakano, an urban planner at Belas Artes University said. “Some of them have been empty for two decades, three decades,” he said.

It’s impossible to predict how long they will be allowed to occupy the building at Quivdor Street. The artists said they want to make the best of this place – for themselves and for society.