Many of those in Newcastle would know there has been a huge community response to the painting over of the Guido Van Helten mural this week. This has raised a number of questions from a range of people, such as, what rights do the community have in privately owned spaces that face and impact the public domain and what exactly is the nature of street art; temporary or permanent?
As a person whom has worked in the arts community in Newcastle for a number of years, focusing on murals and street art style works, when I worked as This Is Not Art Festival Director in 2010 I identified an opportunity to engage businesses (and venues) working with the festival to create a public art walk. This project was funded by Copyright Agency Limited and provided the opportunity to hire a curator, Carli Hyland. Carli and myself worked on doing a call-out and we had a great response. Carli worked with artists from a range of locations. The project saw many artists including Ears, Damien Mitchell, Umpel, Ben Foster and Trevor Dickinson who have all continued to increase their portfolios since this project.
Notably, this public art project was actually Newcastle’s Trevor Dickinson’s first ‘street art’ work which was a series of letterbox illustrations as temporary paste ups, after this I was contacted by Council’s then Graffiti Team Leader, Saul Standerwick, who saw a vision for Trevor’s iconic work on the then boarded up Lucky Country Hotel after seeing the pasteups as part of walkARTbout. The Renew Newcastle shop Little Papercup did a blog about it here.
The graffiti team management team and the placemaking department have been vigrously contributing to the beautification of place with murals. Really, I had to pitch to owners with graffiti problems for them to consider paying for art. After all, they were already paying for repairs. Luckily, the art did slow done the tags.
Trevor’s murals have since become iconic in Newcastle with securing a number of commissions in Civic near the Newcastle Museum, Newcastle Beach tunnel, Mayfield pool and the Merewether Tunnel. It is my belief that the open-call out process by Octapod and TiNA Curator allowed for artists of all background to apply and this is one of many reasons that cultural projects require some kind of governance and ongoing management.
When I was working on walkARTbout with Carli, one of the challenges was convincing owners that the street art works would not start a graffiti war on their wall. Owners were reluctant because the perception is that ‘graffiti’ sends a bad message. Yet, one thing people didn’t know is that the community love seeing the art and this kudos can bring all kinds of positive benefits to a place.
As the founder of Street Art Walking (SAW) in 2011, I saw a chance to link artists with businesses, mainly because all those businesses and property owners I had spent time convincing that the art would be positive, were now keen for more art.
I was lucky enough to have the support of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) helping me set up a business that would seek walls and commission art for proactive businesses, local government and community groups. It was vital for me to try and create a map of these works, a marker on them so that people could find the artist and the story of the art. This has always been important, the artist recognition and telling the story so that projects are not exclusive and that art is accessible to as many as possible.
An example of a project which was actually conceived by Newcastle Council’s Graffiti Team Leader, at the time, Saul Standerwick is the The Theatre Lane Project in 2012. Without the vision of Saul to allow a temporary, pasteup artwork, which was funded completely by Council this project would not have happened with the vigour and consistency that it did. I was able to do a call-out, which drew artist submissions all over the world, and continually change the posters over a three month period. This project is proof that governance does not have to taint fun street art projects. I even got in a real life graffiti feud doing this project! Shout out to KAYE ONE!
Some artists out there might say, but street art is for fun. Of course, go and make it! No one forces artists to work within governed or managed art programs. Yet, the benefit of having inclusive programs that are funded are immense. I have seen artists come forward to SAW that have never made large scale murals and they leave with huge smiles at the new opportunity that a call out has provided.
SAW projects often asked artists to quote their fee, not offering a set sum of money, rather giving artists a chance to truly value and cost their work – on their terms. Sometimes, owners couldn’t afford works and they would say ‘I will just get my mate to paint it’. My response to this was always ‘Great. Just so you know, artists need to be paid for their work’ It is a passion of mine that artists can, at least, cover their costs and that businesses do not exploit the artists desire to create by offering them a ‘free wall’. I believe artists’ rights are important and is one reason why it was a mission to get artists decent fees for their work. I would be lying if I said we never did freebies. We did. We spent our own time and money on a number of works. Because, yes we love it!
The flipside of being an independent and doing call outs is that it is so much work! For years I have been fielding questions about how can I get walls for artists, how much does art cost for owners, how much should artists quote for projects and so on. It’s complex and each to their own with quoting their time. National Association for Visuals Arts (NAVA) have some guides and I use these when working with, or representing, artists.
When you are a sole trader working in a unique domain of being an art consultant it can be overwhelming to manage the interest that comes in various forms of communication. From other arts workers sending you project details to promote, artists asking for help on grants, getting information from artists for grants, keeping an up-to-date register of all the artists expression of interest which comes via facebook messages, instagram, twitter, website and email. There are so many artists that wanting to make art, especially in Newcastle.
Have you heard the statistic that Newcastle has more artists per capita than anywhere else in NSW? I don’t even know if it is true anymore but that little fact was well touted when I was at The University of Newcastle in 2004 until 2009. This is why it bewilders me so that the arts and cultural department of council is lacking the resources to support the creative community.
Today, I am lucky enough to get requests for walking tours to find some of the amazing projects out there and I make a point of including all kind of projects from publicly funded ones like the murals near the museum and beach to the illegal graffiti and community gardens.
Yesterday I received an email from one of my Newcastle street art tours who stated;
“This destruction of Guido van HELTEN’s mural on the corner at Stewart Avenue shows two things.
(a) The Phillistines are many; and (b) judging by the outrage – the project has succeeded in raising awareness of street art to the level where it is part of the identity of Newcastle – for many of us.”
Now, if a guest from one of my tours can see that street art has become part of the Newcastle story, when will it become part of the cultural action plan beyond being a beautification box ticker and be recognised as the value art form that it is. Remember, Guido Van Helten is currently a finalist for The Sulman Prize for The Brim Silo Project. I feel it is time for these street art works to be recognised in the arts and cultural domain.
Whilst there have been numerous set backs for the creative community, from a council perspective with a defunct public art program, two roles lost (public art officer and gallery director) and the revitalization of the gallery halted the cultural identity has been growing, DIY style, with organisations like Renew Newcastle, This Is Not Art festival and events hosted by Idea Bombing Newcastle.
An exciting street art and pubic art movement has been growing from strength to strength with projects like Hit The Bricks and graffiti events which have been concieved by independent businesses. Artists are ready to take the initiative and it is due time that artists locally were given the opportunity to be involved in the ‘revitalisation’ of the city.
In terms of responding to Newcastle Mirage’s question of ‘Is Street Art Temporary or Fixed?’. Of course, the very nature of street art is ephemeral, often political stencils, pasteups and protest imagery are all part of street art. Are these legally commissioned works ‘street art’, when considering ephemeral work? Perhaps not. They are akin to a big outdoor gallery, a series of gifts bestowed upon our city, made possible by the tenacity of creative people whom live and invest their art, passion and time there. The pace of change is slow and I am hoping this is an opportune time to create a dialogue around how to better support more art changing, as clearly the community values these works as proven by the response to losing a work in a prominent location.
‘Does the community have a right to complain?’ My answer, passion from community is not complaining. This is one of the best opportunities for community engagement around the cultural identity of The City of Newcastle, yet most people want to argue about who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
Is there a duty of care that needs to be taken when curating private commissions in the public domain? Yes. As a curator of murals in public spaces, thought and sensitivity are taken into consideration, balanced with a cultural understanding of the area and the artist selected for the wall. Owners of buildings are reassured the subject matters of the works will be respectful and sometimes there are even vetting processes through committees like strata boards. Does this happen in ‘street art’ in Hosier Lane? Not exactly.
If there is one thing I have learned from this week is that the culture of street art is still growing in Newcastle. For a truly evolving scene of ephemeral artworks, artists have to be brave enough to be vandals or councils have to have rigorous cultural policies and visionary staff that include street art – not just community murals.
I haven’t even had a chance to mention the importance of graffiti to this conversation and how graffiti is not the enemy of street art. All of the projects; graffiti festivals, the artworks and pieces, connect to contribute to a culture that has been growing (albeit slowly) since before I was born in 1983.
Come with us, on foot or bike, as we lead you through the streets of Newcastle sharing stories about the artworks, how they came to be, about the artists behind the murals, techniques used to create them and our role in in the burgeoning street art scene of Newcastle, Australia. As Simone takes you along the SAW history you will discover Newcastle with new eyes as your guide shares knowledge of Newcastle’s public art, placemaking and street art.
Saturdays from 10am until 12pm. $30pp. Call 0410115736 to confirm.for more information.
As many of our serious followers will know, late last year I moved to Sydney to pursue some personal career goals. It was all a bit of a hectic time as I was also working on This Is Not Art Festical as Director. We didn’t really have time to reflect or share the news, just quickly pack up our stuff (and sell our supplies super cheap!) to move to the big smoke. We are really proud to have secured the wall on the Panthers car park for TiNA Festival and here are some pics of the epic mural by Sekt, Puke and Itch.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the transition. The support from the community I have been involved in for close to ten years was amazing, including new people I just met.
What does this mean for SAW? We get to cover more ground! And, hopefully more walls!! We haven’t lost the passion for what we do and we do it to make sure that art is everywhere, in public places for all to enjoy.
Now we can focus on new ideas in a bigger city with more walls and more artists!
As we move to Sydney, Skel takes on a wall in Wickham which we helped line up!
Last year we found out that some of our art and placemaking friends were working on an exciting project for the stairs at Wickham train station. Mark Aylward (who has been a key driver in some great placemaking projects in Newcastle West), had sparked a project online with artists Lu Quade and Erynwithawhy. As we are all pals online, we had seen each other commenting on a photo featuring a brilliantly coloured mural over the face of a long set of stairs. Mark, being the proactive and ambitious artist that he is, decided to find some stairs so that Newcastle could have it’s own version.
Mark sought permission to paint the stairs, sourced sponsorship for paint from Dulux (special thanks to representative Steve Kiem) and mustered up artists Lu Quade, Erynwithawhy and myself to join in. This project was probably the most fun (aside from the somewhat awkward posture posed when painting stairs – it’s hard work!) painting project that I have been involved with.
It was great seeing people smile as we painted the bright colours over the dull concrete. Some people asked, ‘Why?’. To which we would say, ‘Why not?’ or ‘Because we can!’.
The stairs have since been featured in an article by The Herald which you can see here. I would like to personally give a shout out to Shrek for his comment. We agree, this is a first class piece of art, indeed. Oh and my favourite part of the day was when the popo turned up to see if we were vandals. No, sorry. We sought permission.
Unfortunately, most of the photos I took of the two days of painting have been lost after having my phone stolen (boo!). Yet, here are some photos which we shared on Instagram (lucky we have those, I guess).
Hit The Bricks are looking for helpers from Friday 22nd until Sunday 24th. SAW is helping them coordinate some on the ground stuff and we would love to see some of our friends come along and be part of the festival.
There are roles as Site Marshalls (which entails being on site with an artist to assist with duties such as keeping site clear from public, passing items to artists and other adhoc tasks) and Shop Assistants (to do a few hours at the HTB Pop Up Shop in the Renew Newcastle’s Emporium at the Former David Jones building).
So who do you get to assist if you become a Site Marshall?
FINTAN MAGEE + SOFLES
BEASTMAN + PHIBS
Shifts are from 4-5 hours and as a thank you you will be receive an invitation to the private party happening over the weekend. You can even bring a plus one!
Fill out our contact form or call 0410 115 736 to register your interest,.
It is all happening in Newcastle, Australia, at the moment with Look Hear presenting Hit The Bricks next week from November 22nd until 24th. Hit The Bricks is the first street art festival of it’s kind for the city once known for steel production with twelve walls being painted over the duration of the festival. Newcastle has been emerging as a city to watch for street art over the years with a number of pieces by local and national artists making their mark here.
Hit The Bricks will see Newcastle host some of street art’s most globally recognised artists to share their talent in painting large scale aerosol artworks. The line up is nothing short of stellar so check it out here. The festival will also include a street art panel, a bike ride tour to see all the works in production and a HTB shop to you can find a momento to take home.
The local interest and support is strong with a number of articles and interviews coming out over the past week. Today there is a feature article in The Herald with Adnate which is well worth a read, here. It is really good to see people getting behind the concept of street art, showing support for this ever-growing art form. 1233 ABC Newcastle have even gone to far as to start a catalogue, which is already getting many contributions from across the region. Artists from Hit The Bricks met with 1233 to talk about the festival and street art in Newcastle earlier this week – listen to it here.
Street Art Walking will be on the ground (overwhelmed with excitement to see the Newcastle cultural facelift happen!) taking photos and hoping to snap some interviews up with artists so keep an eye on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop online.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to share some time with Naomi Hersson Ringskog from No Longer Empty (NLE), a New York based organisation with a focus on renewing and revitalising urban space.
Naomi’s background is in urban planning and it was fantastic to tell her about my home city in Newcastle, Australia.
As anyone from Newcastle knows, we have some seriously divine empty buildings, some of which are of a very large scale.
What kind of buildings, you ask?
Well there’s some heritage ones that come to mind which are the Post Office, two old department stores, local icon The Star Hotel and The Victoria Theatre. Oh, and the Ammityville Terrace house near Wickham Station, plus the big green empty terrace house next door to where I live. Oh, and Pigeon Palace, as I call it in Hamilton. These are such grand buildings (or would have been in their hey day), yet slowly slipping away right in front of the community. Here’s some pics for those who may not know Newcastle, Australia.
Luckily, we have Renew Newcastle supporting the good cause and making use of the spaces that can be matched with an eager creative industry business. This amazing organisation has helped launch over eighty creative businesses in many empty spaces with the heart of the Newcastle CBD.
My work with Street Art Walking has
been looking at the in-between spaces like laneways and blank walls. Or worse yet, grey walls. I’m also particularly interested in how arts intervention into these empty spaces can bolster the communities and businesses together. A good place, filled with art, is so much better than an empty space.
It was great to chat with Naomi about their process of interacting with a site to produce exhibitions or events that not only activate spaces but also engage in important dialogue. The NLE team go through stages of research such as looking at the phstical space, researching the history and interacting with local community groups and organisations to find out what the space means to the people within the area. There is a sensitivity to their process that I feel is perhaps the key thing I will take away from this meeting.
What’s a good place? Well, for me, it could just be a local moment, an event that celebrates the story of an area, it’s people and the history that is important to the identity of an area.
As I’m out and about in the streets doing my research (photographing and measuring up, are usually what I get up to in empty and disused laneways) I always meet someone who is curious about what I’m up to. When I get a chance to speak to them about my vision for what could be in the area, I’m met with such enthusiastic tones and excitement. And there is always a story. Or two. Or three.
One NLE project that resonates with me is Living Walls, The City Speaks which is an annual conference on street art and urbanism in the city of Atlanta.
There’s so many good links, resources and projects coming from NLE that I urge everyone reading this to follow them, if you aren’t already. Email subscribe, Facebook and Twitter follow and if you are feeling generous like I am, why not give a donation. It truly is nice to support a project like this and if I lived in this country I would certainly be heavily engaged with what they do as a punter, volunteer and anything else that I could be involved with. But for now, I shall continue to support this organisation online by clicking through to their articles and sharing with fellow ’empty space’ and arts enthusiasts.
I am inspired to come home and follow the path that I am on in intervening with empty slaves through arts based projects. A term that Naomi used yesterday reminded me of the powerful role we can have as ‘Agents of Change’. I had read the term before but hearing it out loud was validating and confidence boosting.
I realised after sharing my ideas, vision and current processes with Naomi that I am well on track with the revitalisation projects that I am working on. The main areas for me to pursue are now to engage with wider community groups beyond the arts sector such as historical societies, elderly citizens, youth groups and church groups. It’s time to find the mass community and start finding out what stories they have to share, as well as what ideas they might have for Newcastle.
On that note, I am pleased to be a judge for Newcastle2020, a local exhibition ran by young Novacastrians who want to inspire brighter visions for our city, as well as find out what ideas out cities young people have for their place.
I’m confident we (all the various groups and organisations) are well on-track with revitalising Newcastle and look forward to bringing together more people to help lift dreams into realities. We just need to bond and work together a bit stronger. Many hands make light work, as they say.
Thank you to Naomi for her time and feedback on the projects I am involved in back home. I look forward to continue to build on this newfound connection and will happily be a tour guide for NLE, should they find their way to Australia.
Don’t forget to follow Street Art Walking on Facebook www.facebook.com/streetartwalking
and Twitter @streetartwalkin
Here is the lastest video made by Umpel featuring Kloster Mini Garage Promotional Pop Up Shop.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/42768002 w=500&h=281]
Huge thank you to Umpel for all his dedication and commitment to making great art, following deadlines and having fun whilst working. It’s an honour to work with artists like Umpel and my work as an organiser wouldn’t be possible without the artistic talent and drive. Keep dreaming big and I’ll keep pitching the ideas!