My latest, a story about Zagreb's coolest neighborhood for The New York Times

Local Voices Croatia: Ivana Vukšić, Street Art Museum

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Ivana for the last edition of Lonely Planet Croatia, about the Street Art Museum – her “baby” – which at the time was Zagreb’s latest opening.

As a fan of street art, I have since been following the Museum’s trajectory and love where it’s going. It has definitely given Zagreb an edge and hope it continues to do so. Here, I chat with Ivana, the founder, about Zagreb, street art, and more.

Tell us a few words about the Street Art Museum.

The Street Art Museum, aka MUU, has no fixed space, operating hours, dedicated curators, or pompous openings. Its longevity, its expiration date is also undetermined. It all depends on additional interventions and reactions of the public, on other authors, and on sanitation departments.

Its footprint goes beyond urban intervention alone and survives much longer than the artwork itself because it alters awareness and perception.

Photo by Domagoj Blažević

The inspiration for MUU came out of despair. I was quite disappointed by the way Zagreb looks, with the type of art that was being represented in the media, with the kind of art reaching the masses… So I was thinking about things I can do to change that. That’s how MUU was born and realized in 2010, with the help of my friends.

The first project was called the “New Face of Branimirova Street”. We gathered about 80 artists and painted an old wall, 450 meters long. After our intervention, Branimirova Street became a unique city attraction. It has since appeared numerous times in commercials and music videos, and became the favorite photo subject for tourists visiting Zagreb.

What was the latest Street Art Museum project?

Last year we shifted our interest to the city’s suburban area called Novi Zagreb. We brought art to the Dugave neighborhood with more than 12,000 people, where the only cultural institution was a public library. Some of the world’s famous street artists came to paint in Dugave – Phlegm, 108, Dem, Jana & JS, Mentalgassi… The project was a huge success. More than 1000 people came to see the opening, many of them in Dugave for the first time. So we really got to change the energy of the neighborhood.

Photo by Domagoj Blažević

I know you always have several cool plans up your sleeve? So, what’s next?

It’s always lack of time that seems to be the biggest problem when it comes to realizing my plans. I would love to organize two more traveling festivals and do a publication. We are also producing two films so there is a lot going on. Check back with me in one year to see if I was lazy or not.

This year I am still thinking about what to do, where and with whom. But one thing is certain: in September Zagreb will get some new exhibits in its first Street Art Museum.

Photo by Domagoj Blažević

Who are some of your favorite graffiti artists in Croatia right now?

I love everyone who is persistent in creating their work on the streets. With that in mind, I would say Puma 34, Sretan Bor, OKO, Artuditu and Ninja Tiger. But then again, I couldn’t not mention Lunar, who is one of the first graffiti artists in Croatia, and Miron Milić who works more in his atelier than on the street. But every new MUU projects changes that.

Street art is such a controversial topic. It must have been a thorny road trying to convince those “in power” that street art should get its proper place in the city.

It was the hardest thing to do. Even the money wasn’t such an issue. We are still fighting this battle since there are so many different decision makers involved in the process. There is not much to say about the subject, except that I would love to be the only one in charge.

Would you share your three “secret spots” in Zagreb? Places you love to frequent.

I love Zrinjevac park, the Britanac square – neither are much of a secret. I have a fetish though, for a cafe called Roda (Petrova 8), which means Stork in Croatian. It’s a small place with late 1970’s decoration, just across the maternity hospital. It’s always crowded with nervous future dads. It’s a bar with the most number of celebrations during any given day. Celebrating life is the way to roll.

Describe the ultimate day in Zagreb – where do you go, what do you do, what do you see?

The most fun I have in Zagreb is when I go out of the city, to the woods. If I have the time I go somewhere in Zagorje for a day trip.

If not, I take a walk through Dubravkin Put to Cmrok (another city park) and from there back to Britanac square to have breakfast and coffee with my friends. Sunday is reserved for Hrelić flea market. Nighttime fun includes a good concert or a play or something spontaneous that includes a lot of strong alcohol.

Photo by Domagoj Blažević

Any strong stand about Croatia’s entry into the EU?

I am all for it. I would love to live in a more “western” society here in Croatia and together with our fellow Europeans be part of the process of creating new political ideals that will rule our society after the death of neo-capitalism.

To escape the city for a day, where do you like to go?

I love to go to Grešna Gorica restaurant, and the castle of Veliki Tabor, both in Zagorje. I also really like the Kezele farm in the region of Moslavina and, close to Zagreb, the Mrežnica River, with a series of lovely swimming holes.

What’s your favorite spot along the Adriatic, your own beach hideaway?

All of the beaches along the south part of the coastline which you can approach only by boat. Most of them are charted on the navy maps. Or you can discover them while sailing. I think you can figure out why these spots are my favorite ones so I won’t say more. 🙂

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