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Every weekend, street artists in Miraflores bring more color to the city.

LIMA HAS A reputation of being a gray and gloomy city, so perhaps this is why its residents make a point of creating artwork that is anything but dull.

There is no shortage of artwork to see or buy; however, much of it—like in any major city—is mass produced and generic. That doesn’t mean that it is impossible to find original work; on the contrary, actually. I all but stumbled upon a field of artists proudly showcasing their pieces for all to see. 

A display of colorful art by an unknown artist at Parque Kennedy. | Jordan Clay

On the outskirts of Parque Kennedy, a beautiful green area in the heart of Miraflores, in the huge city of Lima, a group of artists display their work every weekend in hopes of selling some pieces. They set up their stands, position their canvases and let their images do all the talking.

Unlike many other vendors I’ve encountered in Lima, who are aggressive in their technique of pushing sales, these artists let their work speak for themselves.

They greet you as you pass by, encouraging you with a smile, but they will let you browse in peace, while also making themselves available for questions and compliments.  

Artist Manolo Martínez was no exception. He sat calmly behind his canvases, his face hidden in the shadow of his art, and it wasn’t until I peeked around the stand to ask for his prices that he made himself known.

He gave me a price, and before I even had the chance to react, he asked me to name what I was willing to pay. I gave a price—a lowball, in my opinion—and to my surprise he accepted immediately.

He rolled up my painting and—another surprise—asked to take my picture! He had me stand in front of his paintings and snapped a few quick shots. Pride and appreciation played obvious roles in his expression, and perhaps it was this display of gratitude that pushed me to visit him again the next day. 

I came back on Sunday, and despite the language barrier between us, I could see in his eyes that he remembered me.

He told me that he’s been painting for over 20 years, and as is obvious by his numerous paintings, his favorite style is impressionism. Martínez did not even need to persuade me to buying anything, but by the end of our conversation, I had bought a second painting, even more bright and beautiful than the first. 

Maybe I’m a sucker for artwork or maybe there’s something uniquely alluring about the street artists in Lima, but it should come as no surprise that my shopping spree didn’t end there.

Artist Francisco Girón shows his work at Parque Kennedy. | Jordan Clay

Unlike Martínez’s impressionistic style of painting, Francisco Girón— another artist showcasing his work in the park— displayed realistic depictions of waves crashing against the shore and quaint Peruvian street scenes.

He has been painting for 50 years, he told me, and selling his art on the streets for 40. His years of experience became obvious to me when I saw that price haggling with him would not be so easy as with Martínez. He pointed to a seascape painting, telling me it’s his “best work.”

Well, I wasn’t surprised. The realism of the water took my breath away. As we finally settled on a price, he placed a fist on his chest and scrunched up his face in mock pain, mouthing “my heart!”

Did I really take his heart?  

There is no shortage of talented artists in this city, and it is almost bittersweet that the park will be empty of their illustrations for a whole week.

These artists bring a certain vibrancy to the park that simply cannot be found elsewhere. We must bid them farewell for now, until the next weekend when they will return, set up their work, and bring back a little sunshine to this clouded city.

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