Berlin-Based Company Book a Street Artist Supports International Talent
Keeping one’s head above water has proven to be a significant challenge over the past year, even when just looking out for oneself. Trying to keep an entire business afloat, however, is a whole other matter with the livelihood of your team on the line as much as your own. With so many restaurants, bars, clubs, theatres, and performance spaces closed for business, countless artists have found themselves out of work and kept apart from their greatest passions in life.
One such business has been Berlin-based company Book a Street Artist, which discovers fresh artistic talent within the German capital — and abroad — before providing them with a public platform to promote their art. Its co-founder is Mario Rueda, who has lived in Berlin since 2015.
Hailing from Bucaramanga, in the north of Colombia, Mario left home at the age of 17 and thereafter “took quite a tour,” he says, with stopovers in China, Portugal, America, and the Netherlands. It was during his engineering studies at the dawn of the new millennium that Mario became interested in solving the problem of how to utilise public space more effectively
“When I discovered street art,” he recalls, “everything made sense. I added business studies to my deck of cards and now use both my personal passion and business skills to bring creators into the spotlight whenever possible.”
Mario’s business partner, and the company’s managing director, is Düsseldorf-born Charlotte Specht, who also moved to Berlin in 2015. This decision was made upon realising that the city had “the better resources and environment to set up and grow” than original choice Lisbon. Like Mario, her travels up to that point had seen her living in numerous locations — Norway, Brazil, and Portugal, to name a few.
But where Mario represents the more technical side of things, Charlotte brings more of an artistic sensibility. “I do love to draw and paint,” she says, “and I’ve always spent a lot of time with artists. The creative process fascinates me. Over time I noticed how artists — despite working with totally different mediums or styles — shared the same barriers to getting their art out to the world.”
That fundamental difficulty, of finding an audience for one’s art, is what led Charlotte to briefly consider business studies for greater career stability. “However, I quickly became extremely disillusioned with the corporate world and knew I needed to take my own path.”
And so Book a Street Artist was born, an enterprise that would combine Charlotte’s love of artists and creators, and her co-founder’s fascination with utilising urban space as outdoor theatres. And it’s certainly the artists that come first in this rather aptly named service, which affords clients with any kind of performer they could want — from magicians to entertain your guests at a corporate party, to graffiti artists to customise office space — with the artists themselves subjected to a strict enrolment process to prove their craft is of a sufficiently high quality.
Once they have passed muster, the represented artists are invited to create a personal profile and offer their services under the following categories: “live painting”, “wall painting”, “live concert” or — more recently — “virtual music concerts” and “virtual team building activities”. These options are open to clients all over the planet, allowing a subscriber base that extends far beyond its Berlin headquarters.
Appropriately enough, this interview was also conducted in cyberspace, with yours truly stranded in one of the UK’s numerous and seemingly interminable national lockdowns. I asked Mario and Charlotte if there were any major highlights they wished to share with me from their experience at Book a Street Artist, and one such “cherry on the cake,” as they call it, took them to a small city in Norway for one of its major anniversaries.
This city commissioned stilt walkers, fire artists, a bodypainter and a muralist specialising in origami walls. We accompanied them to coordinate on-site and were so overwhelmed by the hospitality and appreciation we were given.” Among being taken on a speed boat, to a local bar, and on a city tour, “the organizer himself took us up on a mountain to see the Northern lights — where one artist proposed to the other!”
Quite the step above your standard business trip, this particular adventure ended with the ceremonial handover of a card for the event organiser, in which all of Charlotte and Mario’s artists had written farewell messages. I was assured there were some tears as everyone parted ways.
“Day to day, what keeps us motivated are the many messages from artists, which express their gratitude, happiness or trust; or simply thank us for looking out for them.”
It has been the outgoing, thoroughly on-the-ground organisations such as Book a Street Artist that have been hardest hit by this pandemic, and in March and April of last year their revenue fell close to €0. Reflecting on those terrible months, what they found to be worse than the wave of cancellations was the lack of enquiries and customer interest in the following months. “This is still the case now,” they say, “because events cannot take place, spaces are closed, and there is no certainty about the future.”
The first step taken by Mario and Charlotte was “to check in with our artists and support everyone who needed help — for example, when the first round of government assistance was released. A few weeks into the pandemic, we realised that this situation would last much longer than first assumed.”
In response, they decided to waive all fees and make the platform a free-of-charge service for bookings by small business, non-profit organisation, and clients with small budgets. “We still actively post updates on our Instagram and artists can still apply to join the platform. Currently, we are planning how to come back stronger than ever and think beyond the booking platform. We want to unite creators, secure their value in society, and make sure they always have a stable foundation on which to build.”
The strongest focus of their activity lately is one they have long intended to commit to, but could never quite manage: matching visual artists with brands for marketing campaigns. This is where their new brand sub-brand Book a Street Artist Studio comes into play, with a prime example of their creative business endeavours being the extremely eye-catching campaign they orchestrated for the release of the new Marvel Spider-Man game for PlayStation 5.
“We used graffiti advertising to transform a building facade into a campaign visual for the launch. Together with Netflix, we also worked on a video mapping project advertising a new series and a branded art installation made out of thousands of (fake!) ecstasy pills for the launch of How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast), a German coming-of-age dramedy.
If any of these creative marketing campaigns have sparked your interest, be sure to follow Mario Rueda and Charlotte Specht on LinkedIn for more developments within Book a Street Artist, their sub-company Book a Street Artist Studio, as well as broader plans to continue supporting creators. Just because the orchestra doesn’t play, it doesn’t mean the music won’t go on — and closed theatres do not spell out the end of performance art.
If ever a testimony to this were needed, it is to be found in Mario and Charlotte of Book a Street Artist. They are proof that dire straits only encourage creative solutions and unbeatable resolve.