Street Art

Yesterday, I met a group of young people, here in Mysore, with whom I was well impressed. They are event managers, designers and artists. Our wide ranging discussions also covered ‘Street Art’ and that reminded me of a project I’d set up with my youngest son Oliver and a group of his friends.

Oliver had been arrested for doing Graffiti. I can’t exactly remember when, in his early teens (he’s now 27). I knew all about it, he was painting in a tunnel, for God’s sake, under a road where a river passed through. Doing no harm to anyone. But rules are rules, laws are laws. Typical, it all happened when his mum was away, so she was not best pleased when she returned. We spent hours in the Police station. I offered him a deal. Don’t do any more illegal art (I knew he was just wanting to express his art, where he did it was not important.) and I’ll help organise events when you and your friends can do the art legally, without hassle and maybe, just maybe it’ll show young people in a good light with the older generation.

So we set about organising a weekend event. I arranged company sponsorship for 8×4 feet wood panels and the spray paints and a development company let us use their building site to paint the boards. We had maybe ten artists and plenty of others who came to see and support. A bloody good start.

We continued to do it over the next two years.

We put the word out by text (sms), email and word of mouth. Participants hesitantly signed up and gave their contact details, not often with their real name, they use tags, as part of their persona but also because they are fearful of getting caught by the police.

The project eventually lasted a couple of years. We exhibited in my garden as part of the Hebden Bridge Arts festival where we gave demos to the public.

Organisations even commissioned the young people to do installations, for example in a stair well at a community centre.

The grand finale was when we took over a car park for the weekend, installed seventy of the boards with, gallons of paint and way over 40 artists (even the local Member of Parliament created her own board) and hundreds of visitors. It was all getting too big and too much for just an informal thing.

We finished off by presenting a report to the local council and getting agreement for a Graffiti wall in the local park alongside the skate park and using some of our wooden panels.

Great stuff. Respect to the young people for showing how they could organise themselves in a legal, responsible way and still have great fun. Above all though, I was astonished by the level of creativity, competency, co-ordination and incredible good will. We just need to give people the opportunity and they rise to the occassion. I’m proud of them and have fond memories.

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