It’s the journey, not the destination, for two artists and a photographer from Spain who have embarked on their biggest project yet: a 45-day mural-painting journey across the United State called Survibe. From San Antonio to New York, Barcelona-based artist Joan Tarragó, street muralist Alberto Sabek of Madrid, and photographer Elliot Alcalde of León, will travel more than 4,000 miles in a 1992 van to paint huge murals, collaborate with local artists, and create pop-up exhibitions in cities. Last week, one of the stops on their Survibe tour landed right in the heart of downtown Miami, at the Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana (CCEMiami).
Since June 12, the artists have been following a hand-drawn route from San Antonio to Atlanta, Atlanta to Miami, Miami to Richmond, Richmond to D.C., and D.C. to New York. At each stop, the group has prearranged a street mural, a pop-up exhibition, or both, at sites they call “stations.” Thanks to a partnership with the Wynwood Embassy, Survibe collaborated with CCEMiami to create something that reflects the artists' styles, but with a Miami twist, on a large wall facing NE 15th Street.
“This is our second collaboration during our journey,” Tarragó said. “We try to mix both of our styles as much as possible. Sabek is going to do large animals, and I’m going to do more of the background part, which is very organic and watery. I’m going to try to pay tribute to Miami, so it’s going to resemble the heat and the waves of the ocean.”
June 26 through July 2, Sabek and Tarragó worked tirelessly outside CCEMiami to make their large mural come to life, as photographer Alcalde documented the experience. Though the two artists, who met about five years ago at an art festival in Mallorca, have two very different styles (Sabek is a grand-scale muralist, while Tarragó is a more detailed-oriented painter and graphic designer), their collaboration is a match made in art heaven. “We’re both from Spain, but he’s from Barcelona and I’m from Madrid. He’s not that far, but it’s very different,” Sabek said, making them both laugh.
There may be an obvious Spanish tie between CCEMiami and the artists, but there is no Spanish influence on the mural on 15th Street. “We’re just using our art and making sure to connect it to Miami,” Tarragó explained. “It’s a pretty solid collaboration.”
Though their collaborations are solid, their journey has been anything but. Although key players on the art scene are sponsoring Survibe, the trio has already encountered minor bumps along the way, including a badly sprained ankle by Tarragó and some mechanical difficulties with their transportation. “We have a 1992 van called 'La Chucha,'” Tarragó said with a laugh. “It’s pretty old. We had to do a lot of mechanics inside because it didn’t work. I mean, the first time we got it, we tried to leave San Antonio and we lasted only one hour because it suddenly stopped in the middle of the highway.”
Further adding to the pressure, Sabek, Tarragó, and Alcalde are following a tight schedule across the country — a country with which they are unfamiliar. “We have to complete each station in exactly 43 days, so everything is sandwiched,” Tarragó said. Yet it’s challenges like this that make the experience more exciting. According to their official website, “The purpose of [Survibe] is not only connecting with the street art community and its temples, but also exploring new places and getting lost along the route. Discovering uncharted grounds, jumping into abandoned buildings, and wherever else the wheels bring them.”
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And those uncharted grounds have already revealed some pleasant surprises for the Spaniards. According to Tarragó, he couldn’t believe how nice people were in San Antonio and how willing they were to help. “My perception of Texas has changed so much once I experienced San Antonio,” he explained. “Everyone was so nice, almost like family. Everyone was helping; everyone was trying to help make it better for us.”
Joked Sabek: “We were thinking they’d be like, ‘Get off my property!’ but they weren’t."
Once their journey is completed, their work will have only just begun. “We want to make a book and incorporate a cool video after we’re done,” Alcalde said. “It’s definitely a big collaborative effort.”
The mural by Sabek (@sabeknonsense) and Joan Tarragó (@joantarrago) will be on display indefinitely at CCEMiami, 1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. To learn more about Survibe, visit survibe.es. You may also follow them on Instagram.