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He is Andrej Žikić, better known as Artez and his murals live in the cities across the world. He is the most popular street artist in Serbia whose beginnings included painting graffiti on the buildings in his hood. Today, the works of the boy from the hood are recognized and asked for in Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Delhi, Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Helsinki and this year, he has decided to leave a trace in European Youth Capital.

How did your beginnings look like?
– I joined street art by painting graffiti. That is something that has fulfilled me and something I have been passionate about. In the beginning, I did not have the idea of doing that for life someday. I started painting graffiti, simultaneously studying architecture, I was trying to finish all my responsibilities in order to deal with street art. I think that it is important that young people find what fulfils them and to stick with it and if they follow their dreams and are persistent in that, if they work hard and a lot, they can make those dreams come true at some point.

Where did you find support in the beginning?
– I found it in myself in the beginning. It is most important to focus on your work, to work and be present. People start noticing you, they contact you and then the door start to open itself. People who like the expression of street skills in a public space, who find it interesting will find the way to support anyway. It is just important to do what you like and at some point, everything will start happening on its own. I do not approve the opinion that you should focus on applications, competitions, funds. All institutions and clients, who find street art interesting, will recognize what is of good quality and will call you. If you are really interested in dealing with art, deal with it and everything else will come itself. Here, in the block, there are a lot of young people who spend their free time on the benches and who are used to grey facades of the buildings.

What does for you, as an artist, mean to be able to give them one of your works to them?
– When seeing my work, I would like people to think that it has been painted by someone who used to paint graffiti on the streets…spray, night, legally, illegally, like people from the hood do. I always like to think that my examples are actually an example that it is possible to live your dreams and I think that is the main idea that keeps me and because of which I do not give up painting in public. Today, my profession has some other dimensions. We are the witnesses of a large number of graffiti which promote certain political opinions and symbols of sports fan groups.

What is the line between vandalism and street art?
– I think that hooliganism and painting has nothing to do with each other. Those who want to express their opinion or belief deal with vandalism. They usually do not have enough artistic skills to make that look good, so we usually see those messages as hooliganism and vandalism.

Is it possible to make a living out of art?
– It is. I am a witness of that. People used to tell me that I should find an actual job and I have proved them that art can be an actual job.

How to make young people believe that you can make a living out of art? How did you fight the prejudices?
– I just painted and fought the prejudices through my work.

How do you feel about giving European Youth Capital a work of yours?
– Amazing! It is always a pleasure to paint within a project which has a positive message and which leaves something behind and for what I advocate for, which is the inspiration of young people. It is great to know that this painting may inspire someone. I started painting as kid and murals used to be just childhood dreams for me, but here I am now, hanging in front of a wall in Novi Sad, while kids are watching me from the bench across the street.

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OPENS program in Novi Sad for years selflessly shares and supports youth energy. Whether it is through the festivals, sport activities, education or activism the strength of the youth is

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