Papergirl Street Art Project

by Ariston Anderson


When it comes to street art, it’s difficult not to reinvent the wheel. We often see the same wheatpaste graphics or stencil styles over and over. That’s why we were thrilled that our friend, Berlin artist Aisha Ronniger’s pet project, Papergirl, is starting to gain traction. Ronniger started the project in 2005 when there was still debate over whether or not to punish wheatpasters the same way in which graffiti artists were punished. While most Berliners saw it as a lesser crime, the police force was intent on cracking down on street art.

Ronniger started brainstorming about new ways to show and distribute art in public spaces. A friend told her, “You should be throwing your art around, like the paperboys in America do.†She realized it would be an easy and fun way to distribute great works of art on a large scale, and thus the project was born.

Four years later, Ronniger and the Papergirls and Paperboys of Berlin are still collecting art and distributing it throughout the streets. They ride their bikes, carrying rolls filled with collections of art, throwing them to lucky catchers on the street, in their cars, other bikers, people who might not normally be exposed to urban art. In addition a Papergirl USA project recently launched and new projects are sprouting up in over a dozen cities around the world. We spoke with Ronniger to find out more about the project and how you can get involved.


Tell me about some of the artists who contribute work.
The project is open for everyone! We want to show a wide range of works and we think you can’t tell anyone what he’s aloud to give away as a present. Papergirl comes from the streets and thus it is the recipient that decides what he likes!

In the first year I contacted artist friends and colleagues from school. The core group of artists came from a streetart background—people that are used to giving away their art for free and understand the pleasure of it! Some of them take part almost every year, for example artists like Kowalski, Boxi, Evol, Tower/Klub7, Gould, Solovei, Cake, Nepomuk and many more.

Now, since we posted open calls on several blogs, there are more and more people coming from all over the world that want to start a Papergirl project in their hometown too! We will also start a Papergirl World-Blog, to connect these people, tell them how it works and let everybody check if there’s a Papergirl where they live too!


Read the rest of the interview and see more images after the jump.


What happens if someone asks for the artwork? Do you give it to them, or does it have to be a surprise?
It really has to be a surprise! The people who receive a roll are simply lucky and you can’t buy luck. Even the distributors don’t get a roll. If someone is really interested in some artwork in particular then he can contact the artist through their website or Papergirl. Last year we ran a little shop as part of an exhibition and it was interesting to see people’s reaction when they saw how much the works cost.


Do people who receive the work understand the mission?
I would say it is globally understandable as every culture has traditions about giving presents. The only thing that is unusual about Papergirl is that we give it to people that we don’t know and we don’t ask for anything in return.

What is the street art scene like now in Berlin? Is there more or less since police have been cracking down?
I think in comparison to other cities Berlin is still quite relaxed. I think the police still see a difference between pasting and spraying, crime-wise.


How can people around the world start their own Papergirl projects? Give me the easy steps.
First thing would be to simply contact me at info [at} papergirl-berlin [dot] de. We want Papergirl to grow and move to other places, but of course, we are also concerned about whether or not it continues in the same spirit. So we always try and connect and pass on some tips to new Papergirls and boys.

So far we've had requests to start Papergirl in the following cities/countries: Portland, New York and Georgia in the US, Sao Paulo and Rio in Brazil, Brisbane and Perth in Australia, South Africa, Milan, London, Mexico and Costa Rica.

You can check it all out soon at Papergirl.

Images via Michael Holzl and Aisha Ronniger.