Berlin & Prague 2016: Day 4 – Street art City Prague

In 2016 we are leading 4 high school summer trips. You can read all about our Global Innovators trips or get in touch to ask us any questions about the programs. Our 2016 Berlin & Prague trip “Hacking the City” focuses on innovation, start-ups and community in cities around the world. During the trip, students take turns writing a daily blog post to describe their project process and exploration, follow along here. We had a late Sunday morning wake up call, leaving the hotel at 10am before heading over to the Národní Muzeum for the Retro fashion exhibit. The exhibit primarily dealt with trends and how they reoccur over time, relating past and present Czech society as defined by fashion. The exhibit resonated with me, as it showed standards of beauty and proper attire in mainstream Czech culture, a contrast to the rest of our day.

We had lunch in the area and then headed off to a more residential section of the city. We stopped for coffee at Bitcoin Café, a local technoanarchist establishment dedicated to taking down the Czech Koruna through their strong coffee and delicious sweets. They only accepted payment for their goods through Bitcoin, but they helped a member of our group create an account. After coffee, we took a tram to a artist enclave to learn about and practice street art. The center was an old factory building that had been repurposed as a spot for young people to hang out and discuss their personal beliefs and ideas.

A local food market bustled with people in the front yard. Magnificent mechanized scrap metal sculptures dotted the scene, including a piece made almost entirely of old metro bus parts. Posters plastered nearby street signs, advertising a hardcore punk festival that would be held in the factory soon.

We met up with a local street artist who brought us upstairs to a room stacked with spray cans. She talked with us about the power and history of street art. The Soviet Union had banned the art form entirely, and when the Berlin Wall fell, new ideas and types of expression poured into the city of Prague. In particular, graffiti and street art took hold. To her, street art and graffiti allowed all individuals to express their sentiments, particularly with important members of society with whom they would otherwise never come in contact. Afterwards, she brought out supplies, and we chose or created our own stencils before cutting them out and using spray paint to outline them on our canvases.

The experience was tons of fun, and some of us even showed potential as future street artists and activists for the Cause. We collected our canvases and headed to an Italian restaurant for dinner and our last night in Prague. Pizza and pasta were exactly what we needed after a long day, and we took in the city one last time before riding the subway back to our hotel. The day brought up many important ideas and raised questions about what it means to be a good city and how dissidents of the normal viewpoints can be given a voice to improve their government. We saw a business workshop center earlier this week where entrepreneurs could cooperate to create more successful companies, and today reminded me of the experience. We saw two very different portraits of Prague, and I wonder whether it would be possible to combine some of their ideas to shape a more economically and politically dynamic nation. Street art and graffiti can express one’s ideas, but they fade or are painted over eventually. From the people I spoke with, it seems that the nation is quite divided, and people disagree with the direction the Czech Republic is headed. The government needs to find a way to collaborate with its citizens in an environment like Impact Hub, where individuals can come together for the common goal of the improvement of the nation.