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IBUg Street Art Festival in Saxony, Germany

When I first arrived in Chemnitz, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The city was alive with a street festival — their annual Stadtfest with all its sausage stands, makeshift beer gardens, a ferris wheel, and other festival attractions. But I wasn’t visiting this southeastern German city for this festival with all its teenagers and families. I was in Saxony for the annual IBUg street art festival — a small, nonprofit, community-led festival for artists from around the world to come together to learn, create, and share experiences.

Over the course of a week, artists arrive at the festival site from all over the globe. The festival takes place in one of the abandoned industrial buildings that are scattered throughout Saxony. After East and West Germany were unified in the 1990s, a lot of production and local businesses left the region, leaving behind their buildings and infrastructure.

The IBUg festival has made a concerted effort to reclaim these buildings and breathe new life into them. The artists use the spaces to create new art, share novel ideas, and add political messages of hope and freedom — a sign of the new times.

This year’s 2016 festival took place in an old dye factory in the city of Limbach-Obefrohna, just a 20-minute bus ride from the Chemnitz city center. Upon entering the abandoned factory, it was apparent that what the IBUg festival owners are doing is pretty special.

A building that might have appeared dangerous, unsafe, or dirty was now covered with color, live music spilling out into the street. There were giant sculptures in the entrance way — weird and wonderful, giving visitors a first smile of many more to come.

In the small open space around the building, a makeshift beer garden was set up, with three different food trucks serving the basic sausage typical of any German festival; but, also vegan options aplenty. The yard was full of hearts, some still unpainted on this sunny Saturday afternoon. In the previous days, 120 artists from 17 different countries had painted, sculpted, cleaned, and destroyed parts of the building complex — it had been transformed into a visibly beautiful, creative space.

The art was reflective of this new creativity, these new ideas. There were messages about the refugee crisis, immigration, racism, and European politics, as well as so many messages of love, peace, and support for neglected communities. It was an incredible and exciting representation of how art can make a difference. The building had been transformed from an abandoned industrial complex — a symbol in itself of the region’s past and recent troubles. There was life again. Color and messages of what we can do.

Essential Information

The IBUg urban art festival takes place each summer in Saxony. Hundreds of artists come together to create art, share experiences, learn from one another, and also teach something. Get more information on their official website (German and English). See more photos here as well.

Have you ever been to the IBUG festival? If so, what did you think? If not, would you like to visit? Have you ever been to any other street art festivals? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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