Berlin’s Aging Vandals-Hemispheres Magazine September 2012

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A typical street scene in central Berlin, jumbled architecture, new and old, testament to the city’s rich history. Nearby a weathered pedestrian tunnel hosts a lone graffiti artist, blasting the finishing touches on a huge tag- depicting the word ‘tshuss,’ (German for goodbye) a sigh of relief audible as he completes the piece after countless nervous hours.

Trudging slowly in front of her rickety shopping cart, Gertrude Baum, a 70 year old local enters the tunnel on route from a local store. She offers a polite hello to the painter and he offers a cheerful “Guten Tag,” in response. Yet the spray painter isn’t your average teenage petty criminal, but a respected neighbor and fellow septuagenarian Klaus Sollich, one of Berlin’s new guard of street artists, legally tagging a wall specifically designated for graffiti

Klaus is a recent graduate of a school run by Berlin’s Senior Street Art School Project. Established in 2005 by Berlin-based artist Stephanie Hanna, who has organized several graffiti workshops for older people. Born in Berlin 1972 Hanna has worked on various art projects, including performance, spatial installations and time-based media .

Graffiti courses like Hannah’s, targeting senior citizens are inspiring Germany's older generations to learn the art. Some as old as 80 are embracing the courses in order to bridge the generation gap, while others are captivated by street art’s extreme polemic, tagging city landmarks in typical renegade style.

Hannah reveals "Major exhibitions by the likes of Banksy and Bambi and film’s like Exit Through The Giftshop have changed the perception of Graffiti, its an accepted genre now. Beyond that and these course are a kind of regressive therapy, reinvigorating these older people and getting them in touch with their primal creativity.”

Klaus says his life has turned around since he started his six week course, that cost him “virtually nothing.” He adds “Ive met more people in the last three months than in the last three years. These are an entirely different world of people I would never had met before.”

Hannah adds, “Several of our artists excel with stencil based work common with the likes of Banksy. It seems its been a standout amongst our most recent graduates. Now we have two people over 60 collaborating on a forthcoming exhibition, with Klaus’ popular stencil works a key component.”

Written by Craig Stephens

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