Essen: city beautification through graffiti
Before Tim Schild and Jan Schoch even pick up a spray can, an image is created via computer. Surrounded by spray paint, sketches, two red sofas and a touch of chaos, the two men sit before a large monitor and discuss their new design. This is the artistic process for their start-up business 'Farbwandel' – or roughly translated in English “change to colour”, which in part represents their company philosophy.
After years of working for others and armed with a life-long passion for graffiti and street art, in 2008 the two delved into the world of self-employment, turning a hobby into a job. “I have always painted, and also tried graffiti, though at the time there were fewer legal surfaces than today. In the process, I found a passion for spray cans and paint brushes”, said 31-year-old Schoch.
At first it was just installations for their family members, but eventually their work gained broader recognition. Today Schoch and Schild have upgraded from painting garage doors to completing large-scale murals commissioned by businesses and even by the city of Essen, the western city in Germany where they are based.
The Essen company is one of seven nationwide that beautify building facades with graffiti. City marketing stumbled upon the start-up in 2010 and set the young business to task with the beautification of their train station and a few public surfaces. After finishing a small piece at the Bismarckplatz U-Bahn station, the team has now started a larger city order. The entire Bismarckplatz metro stop is to be repainted. “A good composition is very important for such assignments. You’ll also be able to see a direct comparison and how much improvement there has been in the last few years”, said Schild.
Enlarge image The Essen company 'Farbwandel' is one of seven in Germany that beautify building facades with graffiti (© Tim Schild) “For us graffiti is not a blemish or defect – we also want to motivate young people to express themselves creatively”, said Gerd Dubiel from the youth welfare office in Essen. He oversees youth tagging, arranges legal surfaces to experiment on and hosts a street art competition. Though illegal tagging is naturally a criminal offence, the city of Essen is still proud of the official works of artists like Schoch and Schild.
Essen is one of the German cities that was almost completely destroyed during World War II: it was an important target for Allies because of the coal and metal industries based there. The effects of this destruction are still felt today: many Esseners miss having an old city center – there is nary a building older than 60 years. The cityscape is made up primarily of quickly-built apartment blocks and partially run-down facades.
In Schoch’s opinion, the spray paint murals are more of an attraction: “For businesses, it is a one-of-a-kind advertisement – anyone can do an illuminated advert!”