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Street Art Season: A personal pictorial review

Over the last few of months the gallery has immersed itself into the world of street art and graffiti and I’ve attempted to document some of what been going on through the lens of my trusted camera. What follows is my very own pictorial review of my involvement in the project.

Street Art Saturday

We decided to launch the street season with a day devoted to letting street artists do what they do best: Artists involved on the day included: Pahnl, As One, Newso, Agent, Ame72 and Id-iom.

Exhibitions

The street art season’s main focus was the three exhibitions that we organised. The pictures below are taken from Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A, Fresh Paint and Mohammed Ali’s Breaking down the Wall.

Street Art Giveaway

One particular part of Street Art Season which I’ve really enjoyed being part of is our weekly free street art. Each week we leave pictorial clues on Twitter and Facebook and whoever grabs the artwork first gets to keep it. Below are just a couple of my favourite spots.

Dominic Bubb, Exhibitions Officer

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Peace and Youth

This November has seen an odd collision of events.  We host a number of events as part of Coventry’s annual Peace Festival, which attract many familiar and some new faces to the talks.  Sunday 14th November was both Remembrance Sunday and the 70th anniversary of the Blitz.   The sense of respect for the fallen, veterans’ military pride and peace activism sit side by side and it feels taboo to explore the contradictions, despite my feeling that Coventry’s Blitz is a symbolic moment in the shift in warfare over the last 100 years, from 80% of causalities being soldiers to become 80% civilians.

Artist Presha Dem teaching air-brush skills.

The other dimension, which has made this year remarkable, is our Street Art exhibition.   The ‘in your face’ essence of street art, even in a comparatively refined gallery context, sits strangely with the respect being offered veterans in the Herbert and the neighbouring Cathedrals.

Street Art shows work that is almost universally anti-authoritarian, and much of it is social commentary and calls for peace, often revealing hypocrisy as incisively as Gillray or Hogarth. Street Art is attracting a huge number of visitors, including younger people who so rarely visit galleries, and they are responding strongly to the content, putting the lie to the idea that young people only want the vacuous culture which is sold to them.

Working on the shirts.

Mohammed Ali’s installation portrays people who have been labelled both terrorist and freedom fighter.  Ghandi’s role in history is settled, William as Ouderland is less clearly decided, and when Mohammed talked about Salah Ad-din (Saladin)’s humanity upon liberating Jerusalem in 1187, I realised the weight of historical ideology I hold around the word “liberate”. His work also includes two moving images of Coventry’s Cathedral, and a disturbing piece in which falling bombs are rendered with a beauty resonant of Islamic lattice work.

As a community project linked to Mohammed’s forthcoming event “Breaking Down the Wall”, I was working with young people involved in the “Rep Ur Endz” project – about pride in representing

The CV6 tag on the sleeve.

their districts in the city. The day after we had 2400 visitors to our Blitz family event, I asked the young men about their thoughts about remembrance happenings.  The reply “I haven’t noticed anything” left me wondering how so much civic endeavour can fail to touch thoughtful young people.

These young men are not ‘dis-engaged’ with issues of peace however. The final t-shirt proclaims “Rep Ur Endz CV3” . . . but their preliminary sketches for artwork show a sense of responsibility  and connection to the broader world.

Early artwork sketches – Rep/ Palestine Ur Endz.

Breaking down the wall: featuring Mohammed Ali painting and poets live in the Herbert takes place on Friday 19th November 7pm.

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Experiment S

Crowds Gather for Beginining of the Launch

Okay,  so I said I would get back before the launch and I didn’t, and even though we had a barn storming 2,000 people turn up to our Street Art Launch and get down to Jason Fury’s Hip Hop vibes,  I still didn’t make it back here to share the effect of the planning we had noted in advance.

If you didn’t make the launch and are a little curious you can watch a record of the night here through Mohammed Ali’s eyes.

It appears that stage 1 of Experiment S is complete. We planned and targeted new incoming students through print, email, press and bribery (sweets) and provided a quality product. The results have been quite stunning.

We now have a regular flow of students within the building interacting with our cafe, collections and of course the three Street Art Exhibitions that kind of hit the nail on the head with content.

Stage two of this new direction in audience development is to get a moderate repeat performance for the two events we have coming up for Mohammed Ali – Can Graffiti Art Really Change the World talk with luminary Henry Chalfant and Breaking Down the Wall Live with spoken word and live art that should be a really nice vibe in the gallery.

Crowds Mob the V A Street Art Exhibition

The real challenge of course is sustaining student interest in our offer when Street Art moves out and something with less obvious connections moves in.

We will always be a family friendly venue and need to generate a dual focus – if done effectively, holiday periods where many students are absent would be flowing with families and when families with older children are at school and work our local student population would help us keep up those numbers.

If we look at the positives of what we experienced in our successful family audience focus it would lead us to an approach of total saturation of ‘student’ content,thinking, programming, offer, appeal, marketing, learning, interest, inclusion, media running through everything we do in order become really student friendly.

Let’s hope this can be pulled off by our amazingly talented teams across all departments…

… another time.

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Two weeks to go…

Napalm by Banksy

Time is ticking now…. as our Street Art Season launch looms within two weeks. I really can’t wait for the night. There’s some amazing stuff programmed – in particular the Live Street Art Battle between six artists. 

Our Herbert Matters invite (the campaign is launching on the same night as Street Art) has been distributed nearly four weeks in advance with some success.   

Regular VIP invites have also been sent out.   

Monday saw us take on the might of the incoming students at Coventry Uni Freshers week – we have taken the liberty of personally inviting all of them to the launch and will be offering some amazing popping gum, artwork and flying saucers to those sensible enough to sign up to our newsletters. This should be the maker or breaker of our launch event so it’s really important to sell the opportunity to the students and hopefully inform their attendance patterns for years to come.   

Design and art colleges around the region emailed and called.   

Posters, banners, pop ups and internal signage – all complete and in place.   

Rail ads running, magazine ads provided, listing sites updated …
should just be a case of making the most of the press opportunities between now and the launch.   

Other things still to complete … street art in the community – Anne-Marie Sandos and Dominic Bubb are working on two great projects bringing street art to two specific areas of the city – one hopefully being Coventry Train Station!   

… next time we talk should be just before the launch with fingers and toes crossed… more then…   

Jamie   

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