Can you imagine living in an apartment building that has a mural on it? What if your district was a tourist attraction place? It is not my imagination! Some people are really living in most artistic settlement – it is called Zaspa. You can find it in Poland, city of Gdansk. It is the biggest street art gallery in Poland that has around 60 large murals. So naturally I came to visit it… twice.
Now it’s time to put out all my discoveries in one place. How Zaspa district became open street art mural extravaganza from simple city airport. I am talking with guide Krzysztof, who is giving street art tours in this colourful district of Gdansk.
When you started giving tours in Zaspa?
The tours are coordinated by IKM (Institut of Urban Culture) from 2010. IKM started preparing the lectures for people who would like to be local guides. We had exams and from year 2010 twelve people started to be guides in Zaspa. The art tours starts from June and lasts all summer till half of September.
Each year from 2009 to 2016 festival of Monumental Art is organised. Around 4-5 murals each year were painted by artists from all over the world (Argentina, Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain etc.) Interesting fact – one mural costs around 25.000 Polish Zloty and it is 4.500 Euro.
What inspired people to start making street art here? In Lithuania we have some street art festivals, but we don’t have all the murals in one district. Zaspa is such a phenomenon!
The second organisation who coordinates “Monumental Art Festival” is Gdansk School of Mural (GSM). It is a platform that was created for discussion, to improve the workshops. Its aim to restore the original function of mural – socio-political art, reacting to current events and to develop a single style. Workshops are lead by artists and lecturers Rafał Roskowiński and Jacek Zdybel. Their murals have social and artisic context, they give attention to the current social problems in Poland and other countries. In fact, Rafał Roskowinski created the first mural in Zaspa – he painted faces of Lech Walesa and John Paul II near the Rzeczpospolita street. This mural inspired the idea of making Zaspa colourful and artistic place – the biggest open air street art gallery in Poland. In 1997 the Lithuanian artist Jonas Zagorskas created one mural here too.
When the first murals were painted in Zaspa?
The first 10 pieces in the collection were painted in 1997 during the festival organised to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Gdansk.
How much time did artist have to make one mural?
To paint one mural takes around 10 or 12 days, (during the time of “Monumental Art Festival” ). Also it depends from self-discipline of an artist and quality of the painting. Mostly artists start painting from highest floor (in Zaspa it is 10th floor) and step by step go down.
Funny story, brasilian muralist Mazu Prozak was a little more artist than a worker so he prefered talking with nice girls and taking sunbath. One day he realised that he won’t be able to finish his work! So, he started asking people who lived here to help him finish the mural. Luckily, a lot of people decided to do it. So in result – 10 % of mural is painted by Zaspa inhabitants and 90 % by Prozak.
It is interesting that Zaspa had an airport until 1974. How this place changed from that time till these days?
The first airport in Gdansk was founded in 1919 in the Free City of Gdansk, where majority of citizens were Germans. The place for airport was chosen between districts Wrzescz (Langfurh) and Zaspa, near electric train line. Main destinations From Zaspa airport was: Berlin, Elblag, Kaliningrad, Moscou, Lviv. Free City of Gdansk was the demilitarised place (decision of Treaty of Versailles), so the airport wasn`t military destination.
The airport existed until 1974. In 1972 first large buildings were constructed, the place began to be dangerous to fly cruise. Today, still exist old runaway, partly replaced by district houses. To remember the history of this place streets were named by the theme of airport and aviation. For example, Pilots street, Plane street, Hynek, Żwirko, Wigura, Skarżynski (they were polish legendary hero pilots), the Squad 303 street (legendary squad from battle of England in 1940). Today in the place of old plane`s hangar is a mall.