If you haven’t already seen some new, amazing, street art popping up in the city then you really do need to get out more – especially now that lockdown is over! From May 2021, a new street art project, In Paint We Trust, has seen new artworks appearing in unique spaces across the city centre and the neighbourhoods of Coventry and Warwickshire.
Artists have been animating along pathways and revitalising walls giving audiences a chance to explore. DLUXE Magazine’s, Rebecca Rhodes, talked to Event Producers Street Art Strategy’s Michael Batchelor and Melissa Smith to find out more about it.
So how did this all come together?
Michael: Well we came together as a group to promote street art because we’ve all been doing different types of public art sort of separately and all been friends, all been at the same events and we wanted to do something as big in Coventry as what we’d seen elsewhere. Our mission really was to engage more people with street and contemporary art so we looked at how we could do that with a strong community angle. Following funding applications and meetings with councils we soon realised that coming together to do this as a group would be more successful. Singular people were not having much joy, so we joined our forces.
Melissa: I’ve been really passionate about street art for years and like Mick was saying, we were visiting all of these festivals in other cities and really wanted to bring it home to our own city so that’s why we joined forces. I’m not a street artist yet, but I’m a potential street artist in the making! I’m a doodler and an illustrator, so I do smaller pieces of work. So Street Art Strategy are myself, Mick, Andy, Claire who’s also a street artist like Mick, and then Jay Holder, who is deejay and music producer. All of our skill sets combine really nicely and it’s been really exciting working together to bring the street art movement to Coventry.
It’s also about providing local street artists with opportunities as well so we’ve focused on bringing local street artists and national street artists together so that they have a platform to celebrate what is an amazing art form.
So what is In Paint We Trust?
Michael: In Paint We Trust is an opportunity for us to get as many canvases as we can to paint on, and by canvases I mean buildings, electricity boxes, phone boxes, walls, indoor outdoor, preferably outdoor, and preferably as large as possible and to do it with the support of the art community, the council, the city of culture.
Melissa: For me, it’s giving people an opportunity for people to work together. So, for example, this is a partnership between Coventry BID, City of Culture and Street Art Strategy. We’re bringing in local and national artists and then we’ve also got community outreach. We’re having to liaise with the City Council which is all pretty new. Although there has been street art in Coventry before, it’s not been done on this scale so just to forge those networks and to start working in these new ways together means paves the way for the future.
Street art does seem to energise people
Melissa: And it’s such a talking piece like I’ve never been to a city that supports street art and come across any negativity there. Of course, you might get somebody not liking a piece but on the whole it does bring in tourism which brings in money and therefore supports the local economy. I think it’s a really good opportunity this year for it to really take off in Coventry. It’s working with potential landlords and building owners to say, look, this is the possibility, this is what we can do. Yeah. Just give us a wall, we can create some brilliant artwork.
So how did you go about selecting the artists?
Melissa: In lots of ways to be honest. We did have a huge, long list to start with them, but Covid sort of ruled a lot of people out due to the difficulties around international travel but then we looked at that in a positive and said ok, this is about celebrating our local and national artists. We were really keen as well to get a high female percentage of artists here, as well as people from diverse communities. It’s a brilliant opportunity for the people of England to get involved in Street Art.
So how do you decide what goes where?
Michael: So, our canvases, or walls as you’d call them, are all owned by someone. Some people want to have a say in what goes on there whilst other people really don’t mind; they’re simply happy to have something there and they give us a free rein. Alternatively, we could have full permission from the site owner, but the council might have an opinion on what should be in a particular area, if it’s a conservation area for example. So, the fun bit for us is to then try and match the artist to the spot. We might have preferences ourselves of who or what we’d like, so for example, if you were doing a canvas near the transport museum, we might want to stick with a transport
theme. If you’re in a historic street you might want to paint with a brush and do something in an old-fashioned style. If you want a modern building, you might do a neon spray painting.
Do all of the artists work to a theme?
Melissa: Some of our artists will have a theme to stick to but that can be quite hard to do for the smaller works. For the larger works we will give a brief but we don’t tell people what to paint.
Michael: The powers that be have made us do a sketch for the larger pieces but we’ve made it as sketchy as possible, so I wasn’t really giving anything away. We’ve had to juggle a lot; the art is the easy bit, it’s about juggling personalities, bureaucracies and expectations because the people paying for it want to have quite a big say in what the finished product looks like and also the people doing the painting want to have quite a big say. Then there’s us in the middle trying to make sure that neither party feels that they have lost anything of themselves within the process and that they’re happy with the end result.
I think we’ve been pretty successful so far. There will be a huge variety of artworks though and I’m sure there will be something to please everybody. There’ll be some things that some people won’t like, but that’s art.
So why should visitors come and see the In Paint We Trust project?
Michael: I’d like them to take a journey around our city via the street art and see what else they find.
Melissa: Come and treat the city like an outdoor art gallery, you can do it day or night and see Coventry in a different light.