Covilhã is one of those places that you might never really get round to properly visiting. For those with an interest in urban art, thanks to WOOL Festival, this Portuguese city is one to make space for on your travel hitlist!
Covilha was once known for its thriving wool industry – hence the urban art festival bearing the same name – and the factories that produced it. With that industry now all but gone, Colvilha began to cast an increasingly grey and aged perspective.
Step forward to 2017 and the city’s outlook is far more dynamic and youthful, thanks both to its growing student population and to the exploding artistic creativity through its cobbled streets and on its historic walls.
WOOL looked to introduce these new contemporary urban art murals as tools capable of great social, cultural, economic and urban transformations in the community. Importantly, the organisers aimed to involve the community in all of these, encouraging them look upon them not as gifts from artists, but as work of their own. A new element of their heritage, and a simple democratisation of art.
Take this tour to see just how they did it – and keep this route below handy!
Your trusty map
1. Rua Comendador Campos Melo 40
This route begins, fittingly, with a piece of work from a homegrown artist in the shape of Pantonio aka Antonio Correia.
Born in Azores in 1975, his superb artwork at Rua Direita 40 (as it’s known by the locals, Rua Comendador Campos Melo on Google) 40 is inspired by the sounds of the city, especially the swallows who make Covilha their home, and also by the short film ‘Da meia noite pró dia‘ by Vanessa Duarte.
2. Rua das Portas do Sol 87
Down in the historical city centre of the atmospheric city of Covilha is the next stop. During WOOL Festival, Samina worked here and drew his inspiration for his piece from the locals who live here.
This portrait is of Mr Viseu, a man who was woven into the fabric of the city, having worked in the famous textile factories and as a football player too. This part of town was also his home, so the connection between the artwork, location and Covilha’s community is particularly strong, something the urban art festival organisers were keen to make the most of.
3. Largo Nossa Senhora do Rosario (at the end of Rua Alexandre Herculano)
Catalonian artist BTOY – hugely talented in the use of stencils in her work – left her mark in the historical city centre like Samina. Wander to Largo Nossa Senhora do Rosario (at the end of Rua Alexandre Herculano), to catch BTOY’s postcard from the early twentieth century, and her mural portraying a Portuguese shepherd.
But she is probably most well known for the posters that she leaves in cities, and Covilha was no exception. Only a few exist now, but during her WOOL stint she found time to stick up a total of six posters.
Don’t stray too far, nearby is Mr.Dheo’s artwork titled ‘Portugal pelas costuras’ or ‘Portugal by the seams’.
This piece is really politically charged, “inspired” by the economic situation of Portugal at that time. Mr Dheo takes inspiration from a classic french painting ‘La couturière’ by William-Adolphe Bouguerea, changing the material of the original from a piece of cloth to a Portuguese flag
A stone’s throw away on Rua Alexandre Herculano catch the incredible art of Bordalo II. Titled ‘Owl Eyes’, this Portuguese artist is best known for his 3D installations using trash and found materials. In Covilhã, using an abandoned and dark wall in the historical center he built a huge owl from Covilha’s street detritus.
4. Rua Portas do Sol and Rua 6 de Setembro
Take a stroll onto Miradouro Portas do Sol – not only is the scenery stunning from this viewpoint, the view ‘Wild Orphan’, artwork from the Portuguese artist Tamara Alves isn’t bad either!
This mural was named after an Allen Ginsberg poem of the same name.This piece is a bit poetic itself, while being visually stunning, it has a sad message bubbling beneath, showing the slow death of one part of the city’s heritage – in this case the bobbin lace work.
In front of Tamara’s Alves artwork there is a small artwork from Porto based artist Ovelhas Meme too, worth a look!
5. Rua Jornal Notícias da Covilhã
Near the Church of Santa Maria by Rua Jornal da Covilha, keep your eyes peeled for Spanish artist KRAM – covered in our previous Barcelona street art tours. Kram set to work on a wall of nearly 10mx10m portraying a local legend – a fearsome monster that terrifies the city’s inhabitants while they sleep…or try to!
On the four facades near the emblematic and touristic symbol of the city, the Church of Santa Maria, check out some amazing work from two known national veterans of the scene – the Arm Collective. Their work is characterised by the perfect combination of figurative and abstract styles. This piece was the first in the city,depicting “the current state of the textile industry” – a look to the (almost extinct) professions of shepherd or wool spinners.
6. Rua 1º de Dezembro
We’re pretty much at the end of our Covilha adventure, but one last stop (or two), and they’re definitely worthwhile ones. Add Fuel’s piece – an artist who has recently been creating a stir after his work for Nuart Aberdeen – “Oddments, fragments and scraps” uses the classic Portuguese ceramic tile pattern, and a number of other fabric patterns of almost forgotten materials typical of the city’s exports of the past. His work redesigns them and gives them new life and a contemporary spin to create this extensive mural in the city center.
A tribute to the city of old, for the contemporary city it has now become.
7. Beco dos Reis
This is it, the final stop. “The Ultimate Seduction of Mary” is a piece from Nomen. His style is one that can’t be pinned down for long, always reinventing and using different approaches to graffiti, from traditional New York letters, to 3D graffiti, characters and illustrations. A self-made, graffiti pioneer from Portugal whose artistic education comes from good old fashioned hard graft in the scene.
This tour was put together in partnership with one of Europe’s top street art photographers – Urban Art Porto’s, Fernando. Check out Urban Art Porto on Facebook and Instagram for the best art in Portugal, Europe and the world!