In the center of the town is a missionary museum called the Museu de Arte Sacra dos Jesuitas (Museum of Sacred Jesuit Art) as well as the Museu do Índio (Indigenous Musuem), the Capela São Lázaro (Chapel of St. Lazare), and other landmarks that tell the story of the colonial period. The structures built by the indigenous people are painted simply in white and blue, and are widely known as a symbol of the town.
The town drew numerous resident artists in the 1960s, among them Assis de Embu, Cassio M`Boy, Tadakiyo Sakai, Wilson Gama, Soleno Trindade, and Ana Moysés as well as other painters, sculptors, poets, and singers. The name of the town, originally just “Embu”, was changed to Embu das Artes in 2011 to reflect its international reputation as a city of art.
Paintings and sculptures were among the first art pieces displayed in the town in 1969, and artists began setting up small individual booths called feira as a way to sell their pieces. People started flooding in—not just the tourists from São Paulo, but from everywhere. Today, fifty years later, there are art shops all over the place (not just in the middle of town) selling paintings, wood sculpture, folk crafts, ceramics, accessories, clothing, lace, and more.
Tourists walk lazily through the streets, creating a mellow vibe. Every shop invites you to take your time and look around. The ones that sell miscellaneous goods and household decorations have so many things in them you can’t possibly see them all—so you just walk around amazed. There are also opportunities to speak with the artists themselves, which makes the adventure that much more fun! You’re sure to come back for repeat visits.
The town also has a lake that is popular with families who like to relax in the parks along its shores on the weekends. Some areas are planted with flowers and trees, which is fun to see. There are cafés and restaurants too, so spend the whole day here if you can. There is even live music playing on the street corners, so you can hang around and enjoy that as well.
Japanese immigrants came to the area around 1930 and began farming—first food crops and later plants and flowers. To this day, the flowers here are cultivated by people of Japanese descent. If you visit them, you may even get to hear some stories about the immigration years.
My parents have been taking me to Embu das Artes since I was a kid. Once, when I was in junior high school, I was invited here for a sketching contest, and I remember sketching all day. Even today as an adult, I still come here when I’m in the mood to immerse myself in art. The town atmosphere hasn’t changed much, and though it’s nostalgic for me, I always make some new discovery as well. The city itself is truly one big art gallery. It may be like no other place on earth.