Rio's thriving art scene surrounds World Cup

Artist transforms Brazilian neighborhood with... 01:48

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Street art is embraced in Brazil like few places in the world and often it carries a political message.

Marcio Suki is one of the Rio de Janeiro's most famous street artists. He grew up in one of the city's most dangerous favelas, or poor neighborhoods.

He still lives there, but now is using his talents as one of city's most famous street artists to transform the hillside town, once ruled by violent drug gangs, into his canvas.

He and a dozen other volunteer artists are using graffiti to express everything from political messages to vibrant expressions of hope.

Marcio Suki CBS News

"The paintings are very cheerful," Suki says, "it brought these colors and animation to the favela ... I think it has improved the self-esteem of many residents."

Fifty homes have been painted so far, with residents asking for more.

But the project is just one piece in a larger improvement effort led by volunteers like Charles Siqueira. He sat down with CBS News in a garden and playground, that less than a year ago was a garbage dump.

Community volunteer Charles Siqueira. CBS News

"In the beginning, they say, 'Oh they don't believe. I don't believe. I don't believe.' Now six months later, all the people are very happy and they understand ... and they have taken care, young, old, all the people from this area are taking care of this place," says Siqueira.

Tourists are even starting to climb the steep steps to enjoy the aerosol artwork.

To Suki, street art epitomizes the progress being made in many favelas. "It is the people," he says, "this energy of the Brazilian people, of the happiness, of the struggle.

And it gives young people here a brighter picture of what their futures can be.

Street art in Rio de Janeiro. CBS News
  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.