An exemplar of street art in Santiago, the Museo a Cielo Abierto (the Open Air Museum), located in the neighborhood of San Miguel, features dozens of enormous murals and makes for a noteworthy visit for those seeking an artistic excursion. These imposing works of art adorn low-income apartment buildings in San Miguel, rejuvenating the neighborhood as part of a public art project. While it will take you farther away from the center of Santiago than typical tourist attractions, a visit to San Miguel’s Museo a Cielo Abierto is a unique opportunity to learn about a social and cultural project and to see world-class artwork from a diverse group of artists, all in one place, for free. There is nothing else like it in all of Chile.
The Museo a Cielo Abierto began as a social and cultural project in 2009. Roberto Hernández Bravo and David Villarroel Fuentes, two men living in San Miguel, dreamed of revitalizing their deteriorating neighborhood. Together they imagined a large-scale project unlike anything ever done in Santiago or in Chile. The website of the project explains that they hoped to “change the gray reality of their neighborhood, and moreover to convert it over time into a touristic icon and an example of the reactivation of an entire community through art.” They formed an organization called Centro Cultural Mixart (Mixart Cultural Center), and together with the help of other community groups, the local government of the municipality of San Miguel, and the muralist Alejandro “Mono” González to serve as their co-executive and art director, they officially presented and began the project in 2010. The project also aims to educate, featuring murals that deal with themes such as workers’ rights in Chile, and to involve the residents of the neighborhood, who, according to the website, have input in approving the sketches of the murals. This outdoor museum continues to grow; their 40th mural, called Día del Joven Combatiente (Day of the Young Combatant), by Dasic, was finished in April of 2014, the day before I visited.
The artists involved in this project are diverse in their backgrounds, styles, and nationalities. Local artists from Santiago and regional artists from the South of Chile share the streets with international artists from other countries in South America and in Europe. Groups of undiscovered graffiti artists come together to paint some murals, while internationally renowned street artists display their work alongside. One such well-known artist is INTI, a Chilean street artist from Valparaíso, who has gained international fame. His artwork has been featured at the Itinerrance gallery in Paris and in the streets of Valparaíso, Paris, and Munich, among other cities. You can find his mural, Resignación, on the street, Tristan Matta. He also recently painted two murals outside of the Santiago Metro stop Bellas Artes, and more of his mesmerizing work can be seen in Valparaíso. Other well known artists include Roa, from Belgium, and Seth, from France.
The murals can be found on several streets, beginning on Departamental, around where the street numbers reach 1500. More murals can be found on the interior streets Tristan Matta and Carlos Edwards. The network of streets and buildings that form the Museo a Cielo Abierto is easily accessible by Metro. From the center of Santiago, take the Red Line to Los Heroes, transfer to the Yellow Line, and head south towards La Cisterna until Metro Departamental. After leaving the metro, you can head straight to the street Departamental or immediately turn right on Tristan Matta. If you head to Departamental, turn right here and walk for about 5 minutes until the numbers reach about 1500. The murals begin right around here. If you turn down Tristan Matta, walk for about 5 minutes, as well, and the murals will begin. You can also reach the project by taxi. Direct the taxi driver to Departamental 1500. For a glimpse of the artwork, and for better orientation, check out Google Maps. Many murals appear on the street view, if you want to take a virtual tour.
The streets of the neighborhood do not offer much shade, so if you go on a sunny day, I would recommend bringing a water bottle and sunscreen.
Don’t forget comfortable shoes and your camera! There is a lot to see.
When you go, don’t be afraid to converse with the residents of the neighborhood. When my friend and I went, several people came up to us, giving us friendly advice on where to find more murals, and in one case, a woman proudly pointed to the mural on her apartment building while telling us about the project.
Things To Do Nearby
For more graffiti and murals you can visit Barrio Bellavista or Barrio Brazil, near Santiago Centro. Although not as organized, these two neighborhoods are filled with commissioned and non-commissioned works.
This story was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
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