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Éva Boros stands center stage in an auditorium of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, her name projected onto a stage-wide screen, TEDx Nashville letters larger than life-size on the floor. Terrified as she might be, her assertion is bold:

“Art can save a life . . . it saved mine!”

What Éva Boros brings to the art world is as significant as the street art she curates for the Nashville Walls Project; her writing and executive production for the documentary film, “Saving Banksy”; and her approaches to art consultation. 

“Éva is the most interesting person I know,” said art collector Brian Grief, who saved Banksy’s Haight Street rat and helped conceive the film about Banskythe most famous international street artist.

“Saving Banksy” premiered at the Nashville Film Festival in April 2016.

“It was a really exciting time, as it was the first chance many of my friends and colleagues had an opportunity to see the finished product. The movie has since been screened in around 30 U.S. cities. In February, there were a few screenings in Australia, Canada, and Germany,” said Boros. “I would love for the film to screen virtually anywhere, but it would be particularly special to have a screening in my hometown in Hungary.” The story of Banksy and several well-known street artists (Ben Eine, Niels “Shoe” Muelman, and Rone are central to the film. (Rone painted the profile of a woman on a wall at 6th Avenue and Church Street in downtown Nashville.” There are a few trailers of “Saving Banksy” on YouTube and the entire movie is currently available on iTunes and On Demand.

Boros’s story begins “with the West German refugee camp I was born in (Schorndorf, Germany): 1988, after my mother escaped Communist Hungary in 1987,” she said. Since then, Boros’s experiences have been more that of a curious traveller than an immigrant. In sum: East meets West with a curious eye, of incorporation rather than immigration. Boros likes to say that she hails from everywhere, defined not so much as a resident but as a traveller. It’s no surprise, then, that as Boros told TEDx, Sarah Jones’s TED talk, “A one-woman global village”, and Taiye Selasi’s “Don’t ask me where I’m from; ask me where I’m local” are Boros’s favorite TED talks.

“These women have been integral in cultivating a personal sense of ownership over my identity. No matter how many times I listen, their words give me perspective, and I take pride in my cultural ambiguity,” said Boros in her pre-event interview for TEDx Nashville. “‘The danger of a single story’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie resonated with me on a very Evapersonal level. My birth certificate is in three different languages: German, because I was born in Germany; Hungarian, because I am a Hungarian citizen raised in Hungary (in Törökszentmiklós, a town where the cows still rule the road!); and English, because I went to middle school in Columbus, Ohio, and attended high school in Los Angeles. I began building my career in San Francisco, and I now work in Nashville.”

Of the women in her personal life, Boros first credits her grandmother, whose inspiration has been integral in her development.

“The most important person in my life is my grandmother, who lives in Hungary,” said Boros. “She is a woman that has defied all clichés and stereotypes by simply being unapologetic. Because of her, I was raised in a matriarch. My grandmother rides five miles on her bike every day during the summer, and she loves to dance. She is the most beautiful woman I know, both inherently and stylistically. She reminds me every single day that the perception of age is completely wrong. Her heart is not ‘young’; it is ageless. She has been the most magnificent influence on my life.”

While at home in Columbus, Ohio, Boros maintains creative energy as she collaborates with her boyfriend, Phillip Reed, a musician (The Wind and the Sea and Brujas del Sol). Reed mixed and mastered the score of  “Saving Banksy”.

“Phillip breathes music; it’s his life,” said Boros. “I love the music he writes. I have heard him sing, and even whistle, melodies in his sleep. I have never met anyone more entrenched in music. He has inspired me to push my own boundaries and involvement in the arts. He teaches me about music, and I teach him about graffiti, street, and modern art. Our house is an explosion of music and visual art. The best part is that we can collaborate on any type of project we happen to be working on at the time.
Phillip and Eva

“The most challenging aspect of our relationship is an interesting one. Sometimes we get so distracted by our own craft that we forego even arguing or going on a date for months. We definitely have difficulty with balancing the dating aspect of a normal romantic relationship. Then again, I am not sure that is necessarily a bad thing. After all, we are constantly communicating and collaborating. This is the happiest I have ever been in a relationship . . . although our house can get incredibly messy.”

As far as Boros’s work as director of the Nashville Walls Project goes, the effort is much more “incredible” than “messy”. Since its inception in 2016, ten walls in Nashville have livened the buildings of a city to which 80 people a day are moving, and the noise pollution of “progress” as contractors put up tall skinnies and skyscrapers night and day is constant. The Nashville Walls Project brings street artists from all over the world to Nashville to create works on buildings in the city center. The street art in Nashville appears in neighborhoods throughout the city, as does the work of muralist Andee Rudloff and other artists. The artists who have come from other cities and countries to Nashville to paint walls include those featured in “Saving Banksy”, and such women as Emily Miller (United States), Hera (Germany), and Adele Renault (Netherlands).
Nashville Walls Emily Miller

INashville 3 wallsf Boros has a true home, it is in street art.

“The only similarity I found between the United States and Eastern Europe was the presence of graffiti. It became the glue for visual familiarity, and eventually, the subculture and art form I would observe and study closely.” says Boros, who emigrated to the United States from Hungary at age 11. “Anytime I go to a new country, or city, the first thing I look for is the graffiti.”

Boros organized “Saving Banksy” (scene changes and the like) around quotes from British artist Banksy. One thing Banksy said in his Wall and Piece reflects the effects the Nashville Walls Project has had: “Imagine a city where graffiti wasn't illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall—it's wet.”

Boros’s work is part of an expanded landscape of street art.

“Cities outside of New York and Los Angeles are beginning to embrace it— especially in the Midwest, and in places one wouldn’t expect to see good street art. For instance, Louisville has an emerging street art scene.”

In addition to executing street art projects, Boros consults with clients on selecting art. She approaches her work with novice collectors and other clients on the basis of art as something that reflects integrity, simply by the voice of the artists in their presentation of what compels them. If a work attracts, it attracts—and it belongs on someone’s wall, pedestal, or shelf.

 “Most of my clients are people who are new to collecting art. I ask them about what they like and dislike. I create ‘artist advisory’ articles for them about art and artists they wouldn't be exposed to through the general art scene. For example, most recently I compiled a ‘look book’ of art from the seven countries Trump put a travel ban on. I make sure to send follow-up info about specific artists they are intrigued by. This isn't for the purpose of selling art; this is moreso for exposure and education.

adele“I certainly help clients buy art, but I am adamant about transparency, especially when it comes to buying art at auction. Also, I have this amazing advantage of connecting clients directly with artists I work with. I like encouraging friendships between artists and their buyers. I also encourage collectors to trust their own gut instincts when it comes to loving or disliking art. Most times, galleries and art fairs will condescendingly indicate that a buyer doesn't know what they are talking about, and that’s bullshit. Art is subjective, and if you are about to spend a lot of money on something, you should be able to have every one of your questions answered. Art shouldn't be just a piece of ‘investment’. Art appreciation is about learning about the world through the lens of arts and culture. It’s a different perspective that goes beyond current political affairs and breaking news.

BanskyOne work of art Boros and Brian Greif want to keep out of a private collection is the Banksy rat. Many have offered to purchase it at a high price tag; Greif insists on making sure the painting is available for public viewing.  

“Brian and I connected through a warehouse community called Art Explosion. Brian had a painting studio there at the time. He asked me to write a script about how he had removed the Haight Street rat,” said Boros. “There wasn’t much of a story at the time, and the rat ended up being stored in Brian’s closet for two years. It wasn’t until 2014 that I felt like there was a good story to finally turn into a documentary. By then the rat had been to Art Miami, and had been rejected by the art establishment. It was time.”

Boros said, “The biggest surprise throughout the creation of ‘Saving Banksy’ was how long it took for the real life events to transpire before I felt like there was an appropriate conclusion for the movie. In truth the journey of the Haight Street Rat is far from over. We are still unable to find a suitable permanent home for the painting, yet the offers from private collectors continue to roll in at higher and higher amounts.” (At the time of the film’s release, Greif had been offered $700,000 for the Banksy rat.)

Furthermore, the documentary has appealed to a diverse composite of viewers. “Naturally there are plenty of people in attendance who are familiar with the street art world, but if I had to guess there have been even more who are not,” Boros said.

On March 17, Boros presented at TEDx Nashville. Her talk was entitiled “Enough with the billboards: Reclaiming our public spaces”. Although stage fright challenges her (She is not keen on post-screening panels), Boros appreciated being on the TEDx stage (thankfully, with spotlights to prevent seeing the people in the audience).

“I can honestly say that after taking on the TEDx Nashville stage, I have a newfound appreciation for public speaking,” Boros said the evening after her talk. “I was incredibly nervous up until I walked on stage. I blacked out from the adrenaline rush and don’t remember much from my talk, except feeling exhilarated after I was finished. I came to, and after my last line, I just booked it off stage. I still feel shaky. It was such an incredible rush of feeling. I was passionate about everything I said, and—from people's reaction—I guess I did an all right job.

“Public speaking has always been incredibly daunting. I have had to do it in front of a theater full of people, usually alongside the men I work with. I totally love and respect them, but I hate the idea of fighting over one microphone with five other individuals, so I just stand there awkwardly. I don’t really try and navigate public speaking when I am sharing the stage. I genuinely feel that the best policy is to genuinely be myself, even if that means looking awkward. It’s kind of funny to look back and laugh at myself feeling and looking uncomfortable. It can be a good source of personal comedic relief.”

When asked, “What would you want people to away from knowing you and your story?”, Boros said, “Love those who are not like you, embrace difference, live for experiences through travel, and never impassively stand for injustice.” To the question, “If the story ends with ‘To be continued . . .’ What would you like the story to say just before that?,” she said, “Fuck it.”

Boros said in her next TED talk, she wants to “talk everything that is wrong with the art world. I would begin by discussing the overt sexualization of femininity that has saturated the art market and fair circuit. I would then talk about the ever-present discrimination/sexism/racism in the world, and how consumers can begin to reshape it into a more ethically sound marketplace. I really enjoy sticking both middle fingers up at them.”  

And as Boros said to conclude her initial TED talk, “That’s an idea worth spray-painting.” / Issue 198 - July 2018
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