We all grieve in different ways. Some isolate themselves. Others seek out people with whom to grieve. Some turn their pain into anger, others into compassion. Certainly in the wake of tragedy, there are plenty of ways to seek solace.
We have spent a lot of time on this blog talking about how street art can beautify a space, or act as a critique of street art itself, or even have a political message on its own. We haven’t spent much time on one of the fundamental ways that street art is used, and that is in remembrance and respect.
Last year, one of the most shocking terrorist attacks in the world took place in Paris, France. It brought the entire world to a halt and for one evening, we all stood shocked and paralyzed as the situation played out. When the emergency response crews were finally able to rescue everyone they could and put down those responsible, the world was left to mourn, and one of the ways that people decided to grieve was through street art, and in creating what has come to be known as “The Wall of Love.” Not to be confused with Paris’ other Wall of Love, which bears the word love in hundreds of different tiles, but one that’s directly connected to how Parisians feel about the attacks, some few months on.
The Wall of Love was started by Diana Kami, an artist who lives in the 10th Arrondissement in Paris. Her initial response to the attacks was an almost instinctual need to create something, to funnel her feelings and grief into something tangible and expressive. So she headed to a stretch of wall on rue Alibert. Nestled close to two of the cafes targeted during the attacks, the space is is often used as a canvas by local street artists. Her paintings inspired other mothers from Kami’s daughter’s school and they soon petitioned the local government to paint the entire wall. Together, they raised 500 euros, and the Wall of Love started to take form. The group decided to call it “Dessine-Moi un Bouquet,” and the project began to build steam.
After the crowdfunding effort, the space became much more well-known by local artists and other people who felt a deep desire to create something from their grief. Jo Di Bona, Ernesto Novo, and Mosko were just a few of the gifted artists who helped paint the wall, which now stands as a testament to the beauty that remains in Paris, despite the horrific attacks last November.
What the Wall of Love shows us street artists is the continued power of public art to not only help artists, but help others. In this case, the wall has become a symbol of beauty, resilience, and grief, and in that the people of Paris have a chance to mourn and point out that beauty can be a response to tragedy.