One of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest street art projects was completed earlier this month in honor of the 2016 Rio Paralympics. It took 1,500 spray paint cans and 650 liters (171 gallons) of paint to complete the five murals comprising the Rio Esporte Art (“Rio Sport Art”) project. Each mural represents a sport that’s popular in Rio, and each references one of the five Olympic ring colors.
Basketball (yellow ring)
Located in Ana Amélia Square in downtown Rio, this mural by João Nitcho honors people with disabilities and highlights the need for accessibility. A Rio native born in 1981, Nitcho has been painting since the age of 20. He majored in graphic design at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) in the early 2000s, and developed a style that aims to blend his main artistic and musical influences — visually rendering “the sounds in the streets of the city,” as he puts it.
Diving (black ring)
Born in New York in 1980 but raised in Rio, Mateu Velasco is another PUC-Rio grad. Asides from Rio, his work has graced walls in São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Paris, Lisbon and several U.S. cities. This mural in the trendy Lapa neighborhood is a poetic homage to Arpoador peninsula, a popular diving spot on the city’s South Zone.
Swimming (blue ring)
Yet another PUC-Rio grad, Nicolau Mello was born in Rio in 1981; in addition to doing graffiti since 2002, he has worked on film and design. He currently runs his own studio and teaches graffiti and design, and he co-curated this project’s co-curator, along with filmmaker Roberto Duran. His mural was created to “bring the tranquility of swimming to Rio’s port zone.”
Cycling (red ring)
This mural by Thiago Tarm in the central Praça da Bandeira neighborhood is a tribute to the utility of bicycling in everyday life. A Rio native who majored in industrial design at PUC-Rio, Tarm lives in the Vidigal neighborhood in the South Side and describes himself as a “street painter and writer.”
Sailing (green ring)
The ocean invades the North Zone’s Tijuca neighborhood and colors the surroundings of Maracanã Stadium in this mural by Bruno Big. After majoring in visual communications at (where else?) PUC-Rio in 1980, Big discovered graffiti and experimental illustration during a stint in Barcelona. Since returning to his native Rio, he has curated the city’s first street art gallery, done creative work for several major brands, and developed international projects like this mural in Chicago.
All photos by Henrique Madeira; visit the project’s website for more