As It Happens

Art knows no age limit: Seniors take up graffiti in Lisbon

To call their aesthetic "old school" is an understatement. An art project in Portugal is offering graffiti workshops to seniors and taking their work to the streets.
Seniors are learning the finer points of graffiti and street art through Lata 65 - an art project based in Lisbon, Portugal. ( RAFAEL MARCHANTE/Reuters)

Funky fresh murals, discarded aerosol cans and stained orthopedic sneakers - an unlikely combination.

But LATA 65 - an art project based in Lisbon, Portugal - is trying to break down the ageism in street art. The project offers workshops to groups of seniors - creating gangs of so-called "graffiti grannies" to transform cities and challenge stereotypes. 

"We really want to demonstrate that age is just a number; that artistic expression we usually associate with the young, [the elderly] also want to try it," explains Lara Rodrigues, the founder of LATA 65. She says the project grew out of a genuine curiosity many seniors showed in other street art festivals she'd been involved with in Portugal. They decided to establish a four-day seniors workshop. 

"They were really motivated. We were surprised every day by everything they were doing. Initially, they were curious about everything. They were trying all the techniques that we use in the street."

Rodrigues says the workshop includes the history and theory of street art. And it also includes a lot fo practical lessons - in the streets. 

It even includes tagging. 

"They choose the tag, each one makes a project around the tag that they will also produce in the mural."

She says her students range in age from 74 to 92 years old. She says their ages make it easier to get around municipal bylaws against street art. 

"When you see oldies spray-painting in the streets, no one wants to do anything to them," she says with a laugh. 

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