STREET ART #46 – street art as a project aimed at preventing depopulation

in art •  4 months ago 


Vardø is only a small spot in the north-eastern corner of Norway. It is the easternmost city in the country, situated on an arctic island in the Barents Sea, close to the Russian border. People have lived here for a thousand years. At all times, it has been the rich resources of the sea that have given people here a basis of life. The city has a rich history, arts and coastal culture and not least a spectacular Arctic nature.

A few years ago I was vistiting Vardø. I was suprised to discover the amount of street art and graffiti compared to the size of the place. I learned that this was due to an art project initiated by a Norwegean street artist as an effort to highlight the issue of depopulation. Together with locals he arranged an art festival – The «Komafest».

In recent years Vardø has suffered from depopulation, like many other small towns in northern Norway. It has led to decline in business. The population today is around 2,000. Vardø is the only city in the county that has maintained some of it's pre-war (WWII) buildings in a historical city centre. From around the end 1960s the population has been halved. Since the city is built around fishing and the decline in the industry has led to people moving. Especially the young generation. While walking around town, we saw the evidence of a rich history, but also many abandoned houses lacking maintenance.

It was in 2012 street artist Pøbel completed this major art project in Vardø. It was a part of the development strategy to restore Vardø. International street artists were invited to decorate some of the abandoned houses. The festival’s main aim was to highlight depopulation problems in the Northern part of the country, create engagement among residents and to recreate a city that has suffered from relocation. The festival has proven to be an art project that more than expected has fullfilled this goal.

Many people were engaged in the project. The locals themselves, the municipality, museum, schools etc. It was a street art project, but it was also about Vardø itself and how to recreate a city and local engagement.

The city's population has shown commitment. When the project ended, children in kindergartens, schools and many locals made a special project. They have written down their thoughts and dreams about the future of the city and put in a time capsule that is sealed and not to be opened before 50 years has gone. Those living in the city after 50 years, will then know what the people in 2012 thought about the future and their city.

Some of the artists who participated in transforming the city into a large outdoor art gallery:

Vhils (Portugal), Steve Powers (USA), Horfe (France), Roa (Belgium), Conor Harrington (Ireland), Atle Østrem (Norway), Remed (France), Remember My Name (Denmark), Ken Sortais (France) , Ethos (Brazil), EB Itso (Denmark) and Pøbel (Norway).

The whole of Vardø seemed to stand together in an effort to get the city on its feet and make it a good place to live. The street art project has played an important role to make this happen.


Please do follow if you want to keep up with my next street art. Any upvotes or resteems are hugely appreciated!

Latest street art post, check out :
STREET ART #45 - historical inspired street art in Budapest (Hungary)


Kristiansand, Norway

All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)

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Street art is nice, especially when it carries a good message, besides that, it very pleasing to eyes, it such a pity graffiti is an offence her in the Philippines.

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Thanks for stopping by. Is street art an offence in the Philipppines? That is really a shame. It has changed so much. I can remember the time when is was forbidden in most countries. Here in Norway as well. But the way we look at street art is so different now. And it can mean well. Just at it has in Vardø.

My pleasure. Yes its an offence here, although they exist, people go out of their way, break the law so that they can send their message.
I had a friend way back around Five year ago, He love to do graffiti, he buys spray paints and keep them till its late at night, and we would all go out and look out for him while he does his work. the experience was fun tho,and seeing those art everyday and remembering how it got there really makes me smile.

Thank you for sharing your storry. It made me smile too :) I think that was how it was here too, when graffiti was considered a crime. It had to be done during the night.

@digi-me Des street-arts bien originaux et que je trouve bien expressifs. Merci de nous les avoir fait connaître ;)

Merci :)

really nice artworks. are there also artworks of Dolk?

For such a small place in the most northeatern coner of Norway, I think they really did a good jobb arranging the street art festival. I don't know if Dolk has done anything up here. Could be has been there later. When I was visting Vardø, I didn't know about the street art, so it came as a pleasant surprice . I don't think I saw every piece of art either. Everything I saw was not planed. I simply past by accident :)

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Very cool street art in this city, especially the weird skeleton on the warehouse (Roa ?)... Very nice initiative to attract people/ tourists in the city.

Yeah. Agree. You are right. The skeleton is done by Roa. Before I went to this northern part of Norway, I didn't know about the street art and how it got started. So, it was a very pleasant and interesting surprise to see this small city.

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Thank you so much :)

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