New York artists Maxine Nienow and Nicolina were taking a break at Rio de Janeiro’s harbor when they had the bright idea to transform old fishing boats into canvases for public art. Based on this initial idea, the two women started to ask local fishermen whether they would allow them to paint their boats – and this is how FlutuArte came about. A floating, open-air gallery, visible from both land and sky and set up to use art to bring people together, FlutuArte’s mission is to explore how art in public spaces can transform the local community.

As part of the project and thanks to these two women, local as well as international artists from around the world met up with the carioca (natives of Rio de Janeiro) fishermen to launch a creative journey. Now, every painted boat reflects a dialog between the artist and the local who owns the boat. This particular example is a wonderful way to involve the community in an urban revival process, not only to restore ramshackle boats, but also to create a sense of pride and attention among the locals for their environment and city. As one of the project’s greatest success stories, the involved fishermen and their families started to care a lot more for their neighborhood, leading to strong improvements of the local square and the areas surrounding the boats. This made FlutuArte far more than a vibrant art attraction for residents and tourists alike, but also a welcome community-building measure that reinvents everyday objects like the boats and turns them into pieces of art.

Considering the string of major upcoming events, think the Olympics Games or the FIFA World Cup, Rio de Janeiro desperately needs these kinds of projects to prove that the city has far more to offer than its Statue of Christ the Redeemer or the looming Sugar Loaf Mountain. Check out the duo’s video and image gallery for the results of this incredible art project.

If you happen to be in the area, head here to visit the public exhibition:

Quadrado Da Urca
Avenida Portugal and R. Urandi – Urca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22291-050, Brazil

Also, please feel free to contact Maxine Nienow and Nicolina if you would like to paint one of the boats yourself. You can follow FlutuArte on their Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Text: Frank R. Schröder
All photos, incl. the header image, by FlutuArte