Haas & Hahn, Mural Painting

Can colorful neighborhoods create a canvas of hope? Haas & Hahn share how painting can vibrantly transform communities

Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas & Dre Urhahn of Haas & Hahn have found an ingenious way to empower some of the world’s most impoverished communities through art. Recognizing the potential of the arts to catalyze cultural, commercial and social change, Haas & Hahn use large community-driven artistic interventions – from Rio to Haiti and North Philadelphia - to revitalize neglected communities. In this humorous and inspiring TED Talk, the duo explains what makes their projects succeed.


Their success starts with a web of partners from community development organizations to local businesses and government officials charged with finding strategies to re-energize urban corridors. Along with frequent neighborhood barbeques, Haas & Hahn build local trust by specifically hiring and training residents to paint, as well as contracting local businesses in construction and marketing. By doing so, they empower those who have a stake to transform their own neighborhood.

Together, the community splashes walls full of paint in a process that mimics the improvised logic of growth in the slums themselves. They scale and stretch swatches of “native” color to celebrate the unique ‘palette’ of place and to transcend the architecture of the individual buildings. The result is a vibrant sense of cohesion across historically incoherent city blocks and across the communities themselves, bringing collective optimism and economic stimulus where it is needed most.