Rio 2016 sailing test event helps inspire kids to produce art and think about sustainability

Exhibition of sails decorated with graffiti shows how state school pupils are engaging with water quality and recycling issues

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About 200 children from five Rio schools took part in the sustainability-inspired art project  (Photo: Rio 2016/Delphine Moulin)
About 200 children from five Rio schools took part in the sustainability-inspired art project (Photo: Rio 2016/Delphine Moulin)

While the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, the first Rio 2016 test event, continues to produce thrilling races on the waters of Guanabara Bay, back on dry land it is inspiring the city’s children to think about a wide range of important issues. The environment, art, sustainability and the value of sport are some the themes being celebrated in a project promoted by the Rio 2016 Education Department that is linked to the sailing regatta.    

The results are there for all to see: an exhibition of sails that have been painted, in graffiti style, is currently being displayed alongside the sailing venue, Marina da Glória, on the shores of Flamengo beach. They are the work of some 200 pupils from five Rio schools involved in Transforma, the Rio 2016 Education Programme. The exhibition, which draws inspiration from the H20 cycle, sustainability theories and aquatic sports, is open to the public until Saturday (9 August), when the regatta comes to an end.

“The first test event is a rehearsal not just for the athletes but also for our education and sustainability initiatives linked to the Games,” said Mariana Behr, Rio 2016’s Head of Education. “With the sail graffiti project, we wanted to stimulate dialogue between pupils and teachers, and sailors, graffiti artists and sustainability experts. This is the real spirit of the Games.”

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The sails are being displayed close to Marina da Glória, at Flamengo Beach (Photo: Rio 2016/ Delphine Moulin)

In preparation for creating the works of art, the students took part in talks about graffiti art, the creative process and the importance of water quality for aquatic sports. They watched the acclaimed Brazilian documentary Lixo Extraordinário (released as Wasteland in English) that tells the story of an artist who works with litter pickers at a huge landfill site, and spoke with the film’s lead character, Tião Santos, about the treatment of rubbish in Brazil and the importance of recycling.

“The inspiration for the kids’ graffiti paintings came from their discussions and reflections on the subjects of water, rubbish and recycling,” said Sabrina Porcher, a sustainability specialist at Rio 2016. “It’s interesting to see that the messages that came out of their work show that they are already very conscious of the importance of these themes.”

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Before painting the sales, the children talked with graffiti artists and sustainbility experts (Photo: Rio 2016/Delphine Moulin)

This Wednesday (6 August) about 40 pupils from the Guimarães Rosa Municipal School, which won the Rio 2016 ‘Fair Play’ challenge, visited the exhibition and saw the regatta with their own eyes. “I’d never seen a sailing race so close up, only on the television,” said student Ana Caroline. “We worked a lot on this challenge at school and it’s really good to see it was all worth it.”

The teachers also highlighted the importance of introducing the children to new sports. “We always try to draw their attention to new sports, because often they only think about football,” said head teacher Jorgina Teixeira. “And it’s always good for them to see these things close up; they are very receptive to new things. It was the same with rugby – it was totally new to them and now it’s part of our school. Sport is a strong educational tool and we always try to demystify it and make it accessible to them.”

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The paintings showed expressed the kids' concerns about water quality and recycling (Photo: Rio 2016/Delphine Moulin)

The project was staged in partnership with the GaleRio urban art platform and all the sails used in the exhibition were donated by sailors, including Eduardo Penido, 470 class Olympic champion at the Moscow 1980 Games.

The Transforma programme, a partnership between the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and city education department is in operation in 162 city schools.

Check out the backstory to the graffiti project in the video below (in Portuguese only):

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