Willemstad’s talented local artists are literally ‘painting the town’ to create vibrant urban masterpieces that might soon even rival the rainbow palette of the famous Handleskade. Let’s go find them…
Curacao’s colorful capital of Willemstad Curacao has always attracted those with an artist’s eye, the candy-colored colonial buildings along the historic waterfront are by far the most photographed scene on the island. But a rapid and recent creation of a multitude of traffic-stopping works of art popping up in alfresco locations all over downtown are beginning to give the Handelskade a run for its Instagram-worthy reputation. Talented local artists are now continually changing the landscape in spectacular ways, giving old neighborhoods whole new leases on life. However, you need to know where to find them. Here are the best regions to explore for street art and more…
Historically, Scharloo had been best known for being home to Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue- built it 1732, it’s the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the Western hemisphere. Also, of note there is the “wedding cake house” a lime green, white frosted building now housing the National Archives of Curacao. Once the island’s most affluent neighborhood, Scharloo had since gone into steep decline until the government began restoring the old mansions. Then in 2016, Street Art Skalo began turning the streets and buildings into a brilliant open-air gallery at every turn. Many of the artists live in the neighborhood now, so you might meet them or see them at work, the most famous being Francis Sling who also has a small atelier there. He is the one responsible for the spectacular mural covering two sides of the building at the corner of Bitterstraat called “Three O’clock Romance” depicting a meeting of birds. Sling has become one of Curacao’s best-known multi-media artists, and he also organizes painting workshops several times a year. He says, “My job is to translate what lives inside of us.”
Turn Yourself into Art!
Curacao’s top henna artist is also found in Scharloo in a little boutique called Nigrita. There you’ll find Nicholle Lourens at Bargestraat 28 working wonders to turn her client’s skin into creative and inspired displays of temporary tattoos using natural henna or fruit-based jaguar gel. She also hosts unique henna high tea parties and workshops. She’s a favorite with locals and visitors alike looking to adorn their bodies with cool designs created freehand or inspired by their own visions. The tattoo can last from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on skin type and how long the dye is left on, and it’s affordable, too. You can get a tattoo done on the spot for as little as $10!
The popular and lively waterfront area also has its own art alley, and two galleries well worth seeking out. The first is the Nena Sanchez Gallery full of keepsakes in tribute to one of the islands best loved artists who sadly passed away before her time. You’ll see some of her street murals there, too. And the second is home to Curacao’s best loved iconic souvenirs called Chichi® created by Serena Israel.
“My inspiration on Curacao comes from the people, the colorful architecture, nature and the diversity of cultures and religions. My Chichi® sculptures are handmade and painted in bright Caribbean colors by local artisans.”
The Chichi Shop at Punda has the most eclectic collection of all her characters in one place- they come in many sizes and designs- and they also host workshops on Tuesday and Saturday morning from 9:00 to 12:00 where you can paint your own at Serena’s Art Factory on the east end of the island.
Another noteworthy bird mural worth seeking out there is by talented artist Garrick Marchena, where his use of the trompe-l’œil technique makes it appear as if the bird has broken through the concrete of the building. Stunning!
Explore deep into the heart of Otrobanda (Ser’i Otrobanda) and you’ll now see entire blocks of buildings turning into outdoor art like the massive mural by called “Bida ta un bunita lucha” meaning “Life is a beautiful struggle.” This is only one of the new installations there being developed by Blend Creative Imagining and other artistic local groups inspired by Fundashon Ser’i Otrobanda -a foundation whose purpose is to enhance the development of the neighborhood and bring it back to its original splendor. This barrio is also big on involving local youth in their art projects and community reach out to help keep the streets and public spaces clean and inviting.
The narrow little streets are chock full of eye candy, and the compact little neighborhood is also on the sea which makes for great photos ops. You’ll see random works by multitude of street artists- both professional and amateur alike- decorating abandoned century-old buildings that are sandwiched between brightly painted rejuvenated structures that now host boho-chic boutique hotels, and trendy cafes, bars and restaurants. Tour by day to get the best art photos, then return after dark for their wonderful nightlife.
The Cathedral of Thorns – Santa Rosaweg
This incredible outdoor art installation is worth the trek out to Landhuis Bloemhof to witness in person a massive cathedral made entirely of thorns! It has been five years in the making, the artist Herman van Bergen individually placed each thorn by hand- and now it’s complete and you can also view it lit up at night. The structure is a tribute to religions of the world.
Go Art-Hopping in High Style with Mister Paradise
Exploring Curacao’s art corners really requires a car, and if you really want to art-hop in high style and travel with a wind-in-your-hair island vibe, then rent one of the vintage Suzuki Samurai compact jeeps that come in cool arty colors that Mister Paradise has to offer. You’ll blend right into the art scene! After your cultural tour, make sure you have your snorkel gear so you can go beach hopping afterward. Contact Mister Paradise to book the ultimate island ride.
www.mister-paradise.com +599 9 515 8004
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