Art of the walls – interview with Ania Kiser5 min read

 In Central Europe, Culture, Interview
Lossi 36 speaks with photographer and street art enthusiast Ania Kiser as part of our Eastern Walls virtual exhibition. Kiser is based in Poland and has published much of her work on Local Guides Connect, an online forum launched by Google to promote the work of local guides.

Hi Ania! Thanks for talking with us. What originally inspired you to begin exploring new places and capturing street art?

Day by day, there are more murals around me, in my city Bielsko-Biała, Poland, but my love started in 2019 when I was invited to Connect Live 2019 in San Jose, California. The event was held for 200 Local Guides from all over the World. I was honored to be invited and besides four days at the conference, I spent an additional five days in San Francisco, exploring the city. What hit me was the street art, which I was impressed by a high level of quality and quantity all over that lovely city! I decided to explore it more, searching for street art in parts of San Francisco such as Mission District, where you can find whole streets painted with murals.

You have written (and taken many photographs) for Local Guides Connect. Tell us more about what you hope locals and tourists take away from your articles.

When I write posts about street art I would like readers to look around and find this kind of art in their own environment, to notice that art is everywhere. I would like to help the artists by promoting their work, as often they want to get someone’s attention for a good cause such as poverty or ecological awareness.

My favorite posts are probably your Local Guide about murals done on the side of wooden barns in quiet villages of Poland, made by Arkadiusz Andrejkow. How do you do research on the artists and initiatives behind the places you photograph?

My friends and family know I’m passionate about murals, so every time they find an article or interesting mural, they send me information about it. That’s how I found out about the murals by Arkadiusz Andrejkow. Moreover, I follow Instagram accounts and other social media accounts dedicated to street art for inspiration.

A great neighborhood that you highlight in your articles is the Gdansk district of Zaspa in Poland. It is an open-air art gallery, which covers an area of 3.21 km2 with a population of almost 30,000 people. Over sixty huge murals decorate apartment blocks. Why do you think the art has become so well-preserved and cherished among the residents? Why do you think some cities are ripe for urban art and some don’t attract the creation and preservation of such artworks?

In every community, there must be a leader to encourage people to do something. A person with passion, charisma, and vision. It’s not only about art, but also about social good, fighting pollution, and fighting homelessness. Some cities or even neighborhoods are lucky to have these kinds of people. In Gdansk Zaspa, I encountered locals who were proud I was visiting their neighborhood to see these giant murals. They support artists (sometimes even giving them something to eat and drink while they’re painting) and also talk with tourists about the street art in their region. For more info about this amazing place, and to learn more about their Monumental Art Festivals, please check out their website. There are many, many people promoting art there and making street art accessible to everyone.

In street blogging, have you gotten to know any artists personally? Are there any artists you would like to shout out?

Some artists contacted me directly, such as Prozak, who asked for my photos of his mural, as he was about to prepare an album with his artworks and he found me on Instagram. 

One time I was hunting for a new piece of street art and I met a Polish artist, Raspazjan, who was finishing his mural in Katowice. We had an opportunity to chat and it was a very nice experience. Raspazjan was using ecological paints which actually fight pollution, made from sustainable materials to limit the negative effect on the environment. There are so many great artists that it’s impossible to have one favorite.

You have many beautiful images of street art in Gdynia and Leszno. Tell us more about these lesser-known places and why you have chosen to highlight these cities on your Instagram page. 

I want to highlight all places with hidden treasures like murals. My goal is to encourage locals and tourists to go off the beaten paths and discover something more. The murals speak for local communities, artists, art, and more. They can be a plea for help if the community is in need, and they can commemorate significant people in our history. I know how fleeting street art tends to be, but it’s not rare for these works to stay with us for more than ten years.

What are some of your favorite street art destinations outside of Poland and why?

I can’t wait to visit California again, especially Los Angeles, which is full of murals painted by the most famous artists. Closer to home, I would one day like to visit the city Sant’Angelo di Roccalvecce in Italy, which is full of magnificent fairy-based murals. Also, big European cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, and London are waiting for me and my camera to capture their beauty. 

What’s next for street art? Where do you think the marriage of urban spaces and the spraycan-generated technicolor will be headed next?

I truly believe street art will adopt new technologies and that murals will grow to be increasingly interactive. This would allow more people to become artists and have an impact on the art around us. For now, I’m impressed by 3D murals, where you should wear special 3D glasses to see the full picture. There are also audio murals, where you can add a sound (via QR code) to the mural and admire the painting with your own choice of music.

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