Lonely Planet Writer

A Spanish village inhabited by older people has been turned into an open-air art gallery

A Spanish village near Valencia  has been turned into an open-air art gallery after locals and artists covered blank walls with colourful murals. Tourists now flock to Fanzara to see this huge showcase of free art, which has breathed new life into a village with mainly elderly residents and just 18 children.

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The street art is the happy ending to a rift in the village over proposals to build a waste incinerator there, with locals fiercely divided over the issue. The proposal was aborted but tensions continued, so in 2014 councillors invited residents to come together to create a huge mural. “We looked for an arts and culture project that everyone could take part in and that would re-establish good relations among villagers,” the project’s mastermind, former councillor Javier Lopez, told the Local.

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The project was a huge success and turned into a street art festival, with 21 artists flocking to the village to paint bare walls. Three years later, the Unfinished Museum of Urban Art (MIAU) festival  is a renowned street art event that has transformed the fortunes of the village. More than 200 artists have applied to take part in the next edition of the project, which will run from 6 – 9 July.

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The artists managed to win over some of the more reluctant locals with artworks that reflected village life, such as one depicting robots chasing cats located on a street overrun with stray felines, and residents’ faces etched onto pebbles by the river. For the second instalment of the festival, some residents even gave a room in their home to visiting creatives in a scheme called “Adopt an Artist”.

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“Life is good and peaceful here. There is a pharmacy, a doctor, a butcher’s shop, a bakery… and now with MIAU, it is international,” said resident Elisa Edo.  “You open up a lot with all these people who come from elsewhere [to see the art]”, she added.
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