Walking down the narrow streets of the hilly neighborhood, one can see brilliantly colored murals covering the walls and even staircases. One flight of stairs is covered in vibrant gold fish; another has become a floral mosaic. Several walls feature wings to encourage passersby to take a photo. These are just a few of the artworks in Seoul's famous Ihwa Mural Village.
Ihwa Mural Village began as an effort by 68 different artists to transform an older neighborhood (Korea Toursim). The village was actually part of a major trend in Korea to beautify slums, many of which sprang up in the 1950s to house refugees from the Korean War (Lonely Planet). These villages are all over Korea - even in small towns and farming villages. Ihwa Mural Village in Seoul, Jaman Village in Jeonju, and Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan are among the most famous. Today, these villages have become popular tourist sites, usually after appearing in TV dramas.
In art class, our middle school students have been working on a project to create a mural for the school. As part of their research, the art teacher arranged for a field trip to Ihwa Mural Village. I also chaperoned the trip. There, the students made observations about the different methods used in the murals. Then, in their writing class with me, they wrote about their favorite artwork in the village.