MAJOR street artists from around the world are converging on Chichester for an open-ended Street Art Festival launching this week.
After a year in preparation shrouded in secrecy, it’s all about to go live: a sequence of huge murals will transform city walls.
It’s all the brainchild of Neil Lawson Baker, CEO of the Chichester-based National Open Art Competition.
Mr Lawson Baker said the secrecy was what all parties concerned wanted, but now, with all the permissions in place, it is all ready to roll.
The festival was welcomed by Richard Childs, chairman of the conservation body, the Chichester Society: “Let’s brighten up Chichester for the summer.”
Mr Childs said he would monitor what was happening: “But I would like to encourage art in the city. We want to encourage debate about what the city should look like.”
The front and back of Metro House, on the Northgate roundabout, will be transformed, as will the old electric cinema nearby. A private house in North Street is part of the plan, as is the side wall of Superdrug. The back of Henry Adams on Baffins car park will also be a focus, as will 61 panels around Chichester Festival Theatre, currently a building site.
Mr Lawson Baker stressed he was not talking about graffiti, which was generally illegal and often featured wording: “Someone ignorant might consider it graffiti, but street art is completely different. It’s the difference between an amateur painter and a great artist.”
He added: “The quality of street art you see in major cities is sometimes really phenomenal, bringing a lot of interest and business into the cities where they have been put.
“I thought we had an opportunity in Chichester, with the recession going on, of trying to bring a bit more interest into the city. We already have a major cultural offer, but it seems to me that a city that is a city of the arts should have some street art.
“We will have the street art on a temporary or semi-permanent basis, with art that can be renewed if necessary. Our artists will arrive here on May 2, and I think they will be here maybe seven days.
“I have someone coming from Brazil, maybe one from Peru. They are all being worked on at the moment.”
The main promotional image for the new festival comes from Thierry Noir who takes his inspiration from the image of The Beatles by Sir Peter Blake.
There will be a limited edition of 100 A2 screen prints available for £40 to £50. Thierry will be painting Chichester from tomorrow.
Other featured artists are expected to include Christiaan Nagel, Phlegm, ROA, STIK and Dscreet. ROA’s hedgehog mural in Shoreditch (pictured on the front page), was a major talking point last year.
“The art will be up as long as people don’t want it taken down, as long as there is no outcry,” Mr Lawson Baker said. “But everyone I have spoken to has been incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing. The City Centre Partnership is logo-ing each piece.
“It will bring life and vitality to Chichester. It will echo the fact we have a lot of young people in the city. Chichester is a major university city which is not recognised by enough people.”
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