Standing on the coast of Valparaiso, Chile, I’m not sure which way to look for the best view: on one side, I have the endless sea sprawled out like a portal to the horizon, and on the other, my eyes are met with what can only be described as art. Valparaiso is a city simply bursting with color, a large-scale masterpiece, and each street corner hides an artistic world of its own. The hills here are filled with murals that cover entire walls, each one with its own story. One of my favorite things about side-of-a-building murals is that they’re impossible to ignore: you simply can’t NOT notice them, and the images implore you to answer the questions “why” and “how” and sometimes even “what.”
Chilean culture promotes art as a form of expression, and the people have already shown me more than enough talent to justify it. If you’re unhappy with the world (and who isn’t sometimes), Chileans elect to paint their discontentment on a wall face rather than grumble among themselves and hope things will somehow change. In some parts of the city, it’s rare to see a building without some form of art adorning its walls.
What I really love, though, is that Chileans don’t limit themselves to traditional media. It’s almost like people here challenge themselves to make even the most mundane objects into treasures. In my first month and a half I’ve seen more decorative wine glasses, candleholders, sculptures, staircases, and, yes, walls, than ever before in my life.
All of this has taught me a lot about viewing everything as an opportunity, whether it be art or otherwise. Often it’s easy to view the world as routine or mundane. Even more than that, sometimes a setback can feel earth-shattering – say, painting over an art-filled wall near my Chilean house – when really it’s just a chance to move forward and appreciate what’s to come. A painted-over mural is a blank slate, an opportunity to create something new, perhaps even better that what was there before. It’s the same glimmer of hope that shows up every time I say something wrong in Spanish and get corrected; it’s the only way to improve.
The constantly evolving art scene makes me ecstatic I made the decision to study here in Valparaiso. I’ve learned that the city is living and breathing with me, and nowhere is that reflected more than in its awe-inspiring art. There’s something about art, and especially the art I’ve found here in all its unique forms, that leaves me craving that next mind=blown feeling.
So when faced with the choice of gazing at the sea or the city, I’ll have to choose the latter (luckily, studying in Chile, I can do both!). After all, the ocean is breathtaking but also unchanging and the city is as unpredictable and dynamic as a sensational sunset. When it comes to the art, I won’t rest until I’ve explored every last Chilean corner.
The world awaits…discover it.