I hadn’t really expected to find a lot of street art in Madeira, but when I walked through the old town of Funchal the art was everywhere, with eye-catching designs on seemingly every available door, wall or window. This is the work of the Funchal Painted Doors Project, an innovative attempt to revive a neglected part of the city.
What Is The Funchal Painted Doors Project?
Historically the old town (Zona Velha de Funchal) was where the merchants lived, in tall houses close to the seaport that handled the island’s Atlantic trade. However, by the beginning of the 21st century the area had become quite run down. Rents were low and landlords were reluctant to invest in improving or maintaining the properties. And, although it was close to the seafront, the old town tended to be ignored by tourists.
This all began to change in 2010 when Jose Zyberchema launched the Funchal Painted Doors Project. His aim was to revitalise the Zone Velha by bringing art to the area. He contacted a number of artists and they set to work painting the doors of the houses with all manner of quirky designs.
The Zona Velha Today
You’ll find most of the painted doors in the Rua de Santa Maria. However there are also a few in the side streets and on the parallel Rua Dom Carlos, close to the seafront. There are no rules about what can be painted, or who can contribute to the project, meaning that there is a remarkable variety of subjects and styles. There are currently around 200 painted doors, transforming the area into a kind of outdoor art gallery.
Today there is no danger of the tourists staying away from the old town. Many of the houses have been fully renovated, and the Rua de Santa Maria is full of lively restaurants and other businesses. From lunch time onwards the narrow cobbled street is blocked by tables and chairs, with waiters trying to persuade passers-by to stop for a meal. For the best view of the street art, you may find it best to take a walk early in the morning, when the doors are closed and the tables have been packed away.
An Evolving Project
The Funchal Painted Doors Project is very much a work in progress. If you look at the official website while visiting you will immediately note that some of the original paintings have disappeared and new ones have been added. And it is more than just painted doors: there are now murals and even poems added to the walls. To quote Jose Zyberchema, “the project is in continuous evolution, a cycle of being born-live-die-reborn ….”
Although the paintings are very much contained in one area of Funchal, Zyberchema hopes that the project will eventually spread to other parts of Madeira. His strategy seems to be working – I certainly saw a few examples of street art as I walked around Machico, the oldest town on the island.
Some Of My Favourite Pictures
These pictures were some of my favourites:
I particularly liked the mouse in the corner of this one!
Looks like good advice…
Closed doors give some indication of activities later in the day.
It is good to see some poems among the art.
And this one seems to sum up the Funchal Painted Doors Project…