On the streets of Brussels, Spanish artist Lula Goce is sparking a dialogue on climate with her new, giant artwork ‘The Alchemist’, created in collaboration with the United Nations and non-profit organisation Street Art for Mankind (SAM). The 40-metre-high artwork, painted on the side of a brick building on Avenue Louise in the Belgian capital, is the first in a series of 50 ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ murals which will be created over the next 10 years in cities across the globe.
The artwork is part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global effort led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to halt climate change and restore ecosystems by 2030.
Mother Nature protecting her herd
“This mural, this lady, is a metaphor of Mother Nature taking care of the environment and trying to preserve a space for all the animals in the herd. She is trying to protect it and is watching us as we have the responsibility to protect it,’’ explains Lula Goce in an interview with UNRIC.
With our planet’s ecosystems facing threats from climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, there has never been a more urgent need to revive them.
“Scientists tell us we only have ten more years to switch from exploiting ecosystems to reviving them instead. This can be achieved – but #GenerationRestoration needs support from across society. Artists play a central role in spreading the message,” says Veronika Hunt Safrankova, Head of the UNEP Brussels Office.
Bringing the natural world into urban spaces
Born in Galicia, Spain, Lula Goce grew up surrounded by “salty coastal air, barnacles, drizzle and beautiful beaches”, and she brings these natural influences into the urban spaces where she works.
“Living in cities, surrounded by cars and buildings, we are losing this connection with the natural world,’’ says Lula Goce, who has created artworks across the globe, including in Azerbaijan, Mexico and the United States. “We are part of nature, and it is up to us to be responsible with the planet.”
Art sparking dialogue
Painting such large artworks in public spaces ignites a direct interaction between spectator and mural from the moment Lula Goce starts painting.
“Art in the studio is for people who like art and who search for art. Here, it is for people going to work, putting out the rubbish; they are not expecting it.”
Members of the public are also often surprised to see she is a woman. “I am breaking their stereotypes, the bricks they have in their mind,” she adds.
Creating positive change
Artists painting such murals need to be both physically and mentally strong, particularly as they often work in changeable weather conditions. For Lula Goce, she must also combat a fear of heights, but says her will to complete her projects is greater than her fear.
When crafting such murals, Lula Goce says she feels a huge weight of responsibility, as the artwork will constantly be present in the lives of those living around them.
“I want them to have a good relationship with the art and I try to send a positive message. (In this mural), I am presenting a herd we need to preserve. Change is possible, if we work together.’’
This mural has been created with the support of the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels (UNRIC), the City of Brussels and Parcours Street Art. It was made possible by Solvay, a UN Global Compact member.
- The mural was originally inspired by UN75, a global conversation initiated by the UN in 2020, for its 75th anniversary, where 1.5 million people spoke out about the issues that matter most to them. Protection of the environment came out as the number one long-term priority.
- Ecosystem restoration: an inspirational plan for people and planet