Haifa (Israels third largest city) is best known for its historical German Colony, UNESCO-nodded Bahai Gardens and perhaps the countrys most savory hummus found in the multi-cultural Wadi Nisnas neighborhood. But with these changing times (including massive plans by the Haifa Municipality to pedestrianize the Haifa port district), comes the arrival of Kartel, a multi-level street art, music and design space housed in a neglected boat hangar built in 1970s. It’s been transformed by local street artist crews Ghostown and Broken Fingaz into a blank canvas for both local and international street artists to make Haifa a destination for innovative night life and street art.
We recently visited the monolithic space in downtown Haifa and spoke with members of Ghostown and Broken Fingaz, who wish to remain anonymous, to discuss the conception behind Kartel, the cultural DNA of Haifa and the defining aspects of the local street art and creative scenes.
What are some interesting design and aesthetic elements behind the Kartel?
Kartel is housed in an old hangar that has been abandoned since the ’70s, next to the port in downtown Haifa, an area that is slowly being regenerated. We did all the construction ourselves, and the idea is to change the space every two weeks: an evolving, breathing art and urban cultural space.
Who runs the venue?
Kartel is run by a number of Haifa-based friends that have been active in underground culture in the city over the last decade. Within our crew, we’ve had a graffiti store, a bar and gallery space and have been running DJ nights in different venues, so it made sense to bring everything together under one roof.
What are the unique aspects of the Haifa art, music and cultural scenes compared to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?
Haifa has less pose than Tel Aviv and it’s less religious than Jerusalem, so there’s something more chill and straight-forward about the vibe in our city. Haifa is small so it allows you to be more open to experiment but you still have to prove yourself because people know what’s good.
Who handles the musical programming at Kartel and what is the vision for local artists performing in the coming months?
We book the musical artists and DJs that our friends are happy to listen to; so far it’s been pretty diverse. We are trying to find a balance between giving local music a stage and exposing local audiences to artists from outside Israel. In the first weekend we hosted Free the Robots from LA, we also had hip-hop nights with friends from the Raw Tapes crew (CohenBeats, Kalimist K Boog). We hosted a punk night last month with local bands Sweatshop Boys, Barren Hope and The Orions; we also have EasyRider Sound do rub-a-dub nightswith the finest local sounds. We are also hosting guests from abroadthe legendary Horfee from Paris has a show openingat Kartel on Thursday, November 6.
What is the connection between Kartel and Ghostown, Broken Fingaz?
Haifa is so tight-knit that eventually everyone is connectedif you do music or art, you end up crossing paths.
Why do you think travelers should visit Haifa today?
Haifa is relatively secluded from all of the balagan Israeli for mess, taking place at times throughout the country. And we have Falafel Michelle.
Images courtesy of Kartel