Covilhã Urban Art Festival 
1st edition

WOOL – Covilhã Urban Art Festival was presented in 2011 as the first inland event and one of the first in the country regarding these new expressions of Contemporary Art.

It emerged as a direct result of two great passions: one for Graffiti and Urban Art and the other for Covilhã and its history closely related with the textile Industry, summed up in a secular and important past from the wool exploitation to the yarn and fabric production and to the abundant exports to Europe, which granted it the title of “Portuguese Manchester”, a portrait mirrored in more than 200 factories and 8,000 workers that laboured until the Revolution of 1974.

One of the main goals of WOOL would be to pay HOMAGE to this historic past, unknown to many and often forgotten by the local population that is now turned into a great and still admirable heritage doomed to abandonment.

The search for this reunion with “our” identity would also be accompanied with specific AMBITIONS and GOALS, such as:

- awake the interest of the community in Culture and Contemporary Art, specifically in Street Art;

- through Art rehabilitate/ recover the neglected urban areas (facade) simultaneously making it accessible to anyone

- involve the community in all the interventions and actions so they can feel them as their own, as their heritage; in a simple democratization of Art and informal learning.

- build an Urban Art Itinerary capable of generating and promoting a specialized tourism;

The FORMAT was defined as a sequence of four different events (one week length), bringing to the city a total of 4 artists: two Portuguese and two foreigners, able to present to the community four concepts and/ or distinct techniques of 'street work'. Apart from the execution of a MURAL, an activity that could be totally followed by all the local community (and virtually), each artist also would take on the role of a trainer in a WORKSHOP or of a speaker in a LECTURE, where they would unveil its artistic journey and associated concepts.

1st EVENT | september 


local | four facades near the most emblematic and touristic symbol of the city: the Church of Santa Maria (historical city center), Covilhã

Arm Collective, is a duet formed by two known national “veteran” artists, Mar and Ram, whose work is characterized by a perfect symbiosis between a rather figurative and abstract styles.

That symbiosis and a great talent working with spray paint was used to portrait what was described as: “the current state of the textile industry”, a definite look to the (almost extinct) professions of shepherd or wool spinners, of industrial heritage, ...; a portrait captured by the analysis of the INFORMATION PACKAGE provided to each artist after the acceptance of the invitation to participate in WOOL and by an in-situ observation during the tour the artists took through the city.

2nd EVENT | october

artist | VHILS (PT)

local | Rua Visconde da Coriscada, Covilhã

Alexandre Farto aka VHILS,  the most international of all the Portuguese street artists and holder of a distinctive and worldwide art technique, which he describes as sculptural stencil, was the second invited artist to perform in Covilhã.

What we were able to follow during his stay, with the use of pneumatic hammers and chisels, was the transformation of a retaining wall, completely invisible to the city, into a piece that intends to portray the aging and melancholy of the interior of the country. A message of criticism and of intervention in the city, a common exercise in all the body of work of the artist, something he revealed during the lecture performed for the community.

3rd EVENT | november

artist | BTOY (ES)

local | Largo Sr. do Rosário, Covilhã

The third event of WOOL, welcomed the female Catalan artist BTOY, a recognized expert in the use of the stencil technique, that left us a facade on the historical centre of the city offered by a resident (constant presence in previous actions), the reinterpretation of a postcard from the early twentieth century, the image of a shepherd.

But BTOY, is best known for the posters that she leaves in an more or less random way on the streets of the cities she visits and Covilhã was no exception. Currently, a total of six posters can be found throughout the city and it must be noted that, even tough 2 years have gone by, they remain completely intact. This is another example and noticeable confirmation of the construction of a community heritage taken care by all.

4th EVENT | december


local | factory Amândio Saraiva, located on the Calçada de Santa Cruz, Covilhã

For the fourth event we set out to make an action for the global project INSIDE OUT PROJECT (IOP), by the French artist JR, who intends to discover, collect and share hidden stories through the world by using enlarged black and white portraits.

The story that “we set out to tell” was the one of the former workers and entrepreneurs of the almost extinct textile industry and from a population of almost 8,000 individuals with these roles only a few decades ago, from contacts with institutions and professional associations in the area, only 44 people were ​​available to be portrayed.

This observation increased our interest “in this story” and in addition to a simple photograph shot, we interviewed the 44 workers and entrepreneurs, aged between 34 and 92 years, “recording” (for four long months) how was their work and the way of living in the glory days of “the Portuguese Manchester”.

OFF FEST | during the 1st edition of the WOOL festival we received in the city many visits from other artists not included on the programme, that left some pieces in the streets of Covilhã. 

In the next pictures you can see some of the artworks by: 




Credits: Story

Credits Photos — WOOL | Covilhã Urban Art Festival
Cover work — Arm Collective
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Credits: All media
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