A huge part of Antwerp’s art scene can be seen 24/7, all around town: Street art. Local Tim Marschang found his passion in the art form and made it from a silent admirer to the founder of the first international street art platform.
Saturday and Sunday are Tim Marschang’s favourite days of the week. Not only because he gets to spend time with his family and can take a break from his fulltime job. For Tim, the end of the week is a gateway to following his true passion: Street art.
Every second weekend he shows people Antwerp’s street art pieces, or as he calls it, ‘Antwerp’s open-air gallery’. He tells stories about the artists, the background of the art and that street art is completely different from illegal graffiti. What makes the tours special, he thinks, is the way he tells his stories. Always personal, always different and with an insider background. Joachim, Smok, Rise One and the many other street artists of Antwerp – Tim knows them all.
The tall guy from Merksem is a part of Antwerp’s Street Art scene without even creating murals. His means of expression are words, not a spray can. If one met him during the week, they would have no idea, because then he takes care of maintenance in a chemical plant. This is the job that pays his bills. But the job that makes Tim’s blue eyes light up every time he talks about it, is street art. ‘It’s my passion, I’m always thinking about it. Even my boss sees me evolving in a better self’, he says.
‘A new world opened up to me.’
Looking a few years back, things didn’t look so good. Tim was having a difficult time in his life and stayed home for a couple of months. One day he decided to go on a bike ride – not knowing that it would change his life. He came across a street art piece, took a picture and couldn’t help but sharing it online: ‘It was like a new world opened up to me’. People told him where else to look for street art and so he did. He soon started documenting all art pieces he could find.
It was his little son who motivated Tim to start showing his finds to the public. He sold waffles for a good-cause-festival and thus motivated his father to get active as well. Tim decided to do street art tours where people could take part in for free and afterwards give whatever they wanted. As the festival was over, Tim got requests to continue with the tours. This was in late 2016. Almost two years later, the tours are regularly sold out.
Antwerp’s street art scene is huge. ‘Berchem is Antwerp’s street art district’, Tim explains during a tour. At the Zomerfabriek, only five minutes from Berchem station, 3000 square metres of coloured walls are waiting to be discovered. This makes it one of Europe’s largest concentrations of street art. Each year, the street art festival ‘Meeting of styles’ comes to the almost completely abandoned complex and hundreds of artists from all over the world create together. The name speaks for itself: all colours and shapes you can imagine are painted or sprayed upon these walls. Even a Hollywood celebrity left his mark here: Matthias Schoenaerts who was born in Antwerp and started out as a street artist. ‘Antwerp should be known for street art just like for diamonds and chocolates’, Tim says.
Discover Antwerp’s street art
But not everybody is on his side yet. Finding budgets to paint big walls is still difficult and the city takes a long time responding to Tim’s propositions. In his eyes the city government hasn’t fully realised that street art is a huge asset for Antwerp. ‘You attract a whole different segment of tourists, especially young people who are backpacking through Europe’, he says. Furthermore, the street art pieces always change. They could be overpainted in a short time, so people might come back to see how the scene has evolved from their last visit. Example: Sooner or later the Zomerfabriek will be torn down to create new living spaces, so the Meeting of Styles will have to find a new home.
First international platform to discover street art
Until the city understands the potential, Tim will continue doing his thing no matter what, he states. Besides the street art tours around Antwerp, he has realised an even bigger project: ‘Street art cities’. Via a website and an app, people can discover street art around the world. What began as a small idea getting 3rd place at an app development competition, emerged into an international platform. Until today, you can discover over 15.600 street art pieces in 275 cities from 67 countries around the world with an interactive map. Hunters from all around the world take photos and gather information about the pieces. Tim is community manager, co-founder and hunter all at once. But he also adds new dots on the map. In his home district Merksem he already helped to realise several murals, last year summing up to 20.
Tim doesn’t get rich from all his projects, but that’s not his motivation, as he says. ‘Since I discovered street art I have never had so much energy. It’s so crazy’, he says and looks as if he still couldn’t believe it. A lot of change is to come for him. If everything works out he might cut down on his day job to have more time to commit to his projects, he could soon need help guiding the tours, plus there are new features planned for the app. And that is funnily enough already one more thing that connects Tim to his beloved street art: Neither one stays the same for a long time.