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Berlin-based company Book a Street Artist supports international talent during COVID-19

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Finding fresh talent and taking an artistic approach to advertising

Keeping your head above water has proven to be a significant challenge over the past year, even when you’re just looking out for yourself. Trying to keep an entire business afloat, however, is a whole other matter, with the livelihood of your team on the line as much as your own. With so many restaurants, bars, clubs, theatres, and performance spaces closed for business, countless artists have found themselves out of work and kept apart from their greatest passions in life.

Berlin-based company Book a Street Artist discovers fresh artistic talent within the capital – and abroad – before providing artists with a public platform to promote their work. Its co-founder is Mario Rueda, who has lived in Berlin since 2015.

Hailing from Bucaramanga in northern Colombia, Mario left home at 17 and “took quite a tour,” he says, with stopovers in China, Portugal, America, and the Netherlands. It was during his engineering studies at the dawn of the new millennium that Mario became interested in solving the problem of how to utilise public space more effectively.

“When I discovered street art,” he said, “everything made sense. I added business studies to my deck of cards and now use both my personal passion and business skills to bring creators into the spotlight whenever possible.”

Mario’s business partner, and the company’s managing director, is Düsseldorf-born Charlotte Specht, who also moved to Berlin in 2015. This decision was made upon realising that the city had “the better resources and environment to set up and grow” than the original choice of Lisbon. Like Mario, her travels up to that point had seen her living in numerous locations – Norway, Brazil, and Portugal, to name a few.

Charlotte and Mario.

Where Mario represents the more technical side of things, Charlotte brings more of an artistic sensibility. “I do love to draw and paint,” she said, “and I’ve always spent a lot of time with artists. The creative process fascinates me. Over time I noticed how artists – despite working with totally different mediums or styles – shared the same barriers to getting their art out to the world.”

That fundamental difficulty, of finding an audience for your art, is what led Charlotte to briefly consider business studies for greater career stability. “However, I quickly became extremely disillusioned with the corporate world and knew I needed to take my own path.”

And so Book a Street Artist was born, an enterprise that would combine Charlotte’s love of artists and creators, and her co-founder’s fascination with utilising urban space as outdoor theatres. And it’s certainly the artists that come first in this aptly-named service, which affords clients with any kind of performer they could want – from magicians to entertain your guests at a corporate party, to graffiti artists to customise office space – with the artists themselves subjected to a strict enrolment process to prove that their craft is of sufficiently high quality.

Once they have passed muster, the represented artists are invited to create a personal profile and offer their services under the following categories: "live painting”, "wall painting", "live concert" or – more recently – "virtual music concerts" and "virtual team building activities". These options are open to clients all over the planet, allowing a subscriber base that extends far beyond its Berlin headquarters.

Mural by Vidam, a visual artist and illustrator from Berlin.

When asked about the highlights of their experience at Book a Street Artist, Mario and Charlotte recalled a trip to a small city in Norway for one of its major anniversaries. Quite the step above your standard business trip, this particular adventure ended with the ceremonial handover of a card for the event organiser, in which all of Charlotte and Mario’s artists had written farewell messages. I was assured there were some tears as everyone parted ways.

“Day to day, what keeps us motivated are the many messages from artists, which express their gratitude, happiness or trust; or simply thank us for looking out for them.”

On-the-ground organisations such as Book a Street Artist have been among the hardest hit by this pandemic, and in March and April of last year, the company’s revenue fell close to €0. Reflecting on those terrible months, what Mario and Charlotte found to be worse than the wave of cancellations was the lack of enquiries and customer interest in the following months. “This is still the case now,” they said, “because events cannot take place, spaces are closed, and there is no certainty about the future.”

The first step taken by Mario and Charlotte was “to check in with our artists and support everyone who needed help – for example, when the first round of government assistance was released. A few weeks into the pandemic, we realised that this situation would last much longer than first assumed.”

In response, they decided to waive all fees and make the platform a free-of-charge service for bookings by small businesses, non-profit organisations, and clients with small budgets. “We still actively post updates on our Instagram and artists can still apply to join the platform. Currently, we are planning how to come back stronger than ever and think beyond the booking platform. We want to unite creators, secure their value in society, and make sure they always have a stable foundation on which to build.”

The strongest focus of their activity lately is one they have long intended to commit to, but could never quite manage: matching visual artists with brands for marketing campaigns. This is where their new brand sub-brand BASA Studio comes into play, which recently created a campaign for the new Marvel Spider-Man game for PlayStation 5.

“We used graffiti advertising to transform a building facade into a campaign visual for the launch. Together with Netflix, we also worked on a video mapping project advertising a new series and a branded art installation made out of thousands of (fake!) ecstasy pills for the launch of "How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)," a German coming-of-age comedy-drama.

A poster for How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) in Freiburg im Breisgau. Photo: Wikimedia Commons,CC BY-SA 4.0

If any of these creative marketing campaigns have sparked your interest, you can keep up to date with Mario Rueda and Charlotte Specht and their projects on LinkedIn. Just because the orchestra doesn’t play, it doesn’t mean the music won’t go on – and closed theatres do not spell out the end of performance art Companies like Book a Street Artist is proof that dire straits can encourage creative solutions and unbeatable resolve.

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