One of the most striking things about Cork these days is the colour everywhere, and the amount of street art on buildings and all around the city has greatly added to the vibrancy of our city. I’ve written about this a few times over the years but in 2020 it is a real Cork success story that should be celebrated.
Friday, September 18, marks culture night, and it’s a good time to celebrate this art, which is closely aligned with our music culture. Nowhere is this more evident than at Cork City Library, where you can see the past, present and future of Cork city adorning the walls on this bustling area on Grand Parade.
The city library recently unveiled new artwork on Grand Parade that pays homage to the legendary bands that emerged from the punk era back in Cork. The Kaught at the Kampus album was recorded live in the Arcadia back in the day and it featured loads of amazing punk/new wave bands, such as Microdisney, Nun Attax, Mean Features and Urban Blitz. Nun Attax eventually became Five go down to the Sea, and it’s great to see them being honoured with the other groups in 2020.
The Kaught in the Kampus album is 40 years old and was later released by Elvera Butlers Reekus records. The new artwork was produced by Fiona O’Mahony (Conjun Box) and Siobhan Bardsley (Cork Zine archive) and it features some previously unpublished pictures of the bands.
Only yards from this celebration of Cork’s past there is an even bigger artwork going on display on the front of the library itself.
My Generation is a project that has run at the Glucksman with artist Kate O’Shea and a group of 30 youngsters who are either from Direct Provison, the greater migrant community or simply passionate young activists. I’ve been working on this project myself for the last six weeks and it’s been great watching how the young people have responded to some workshops by artists such as Eve Olney and Joe Caslin. The work, which will be unveiled properly tomorrow, is by the youngsters themselves, and features words, collages and pictures that reflect their own experience of living in Ireland in 2020.
The young artists pasted some of this artwork on the hoarding by Kyrl’s Quay last Saturday and by tomorrow night they will have displayed a few significant bits of art on the main wall of the library. Many of the same teens were involved in the recent BLM murals and artworks on Sullivan’s Quay and Nano Nagle Place and it’s great to see so many of them making challenging and colourful art. This generation are very passionate and exciting and also very talented and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next!
Creativity and Change and Croíneamh are currently creating a collaborative street art piece overlooking the River Lee, which will honour the 40k plus people who have died crossing the Mediterranean trying to start a new life.
In Cork and elsewhere, street art is often very challenging and it’s great to see some of the examples that are around at the moment. The mural on the Lido in Blackpool, plus the PROC Fela Kuti one, are also great, as is the Frederick Douglass one by Kevin O’Brien. I also recently wrote about the powerful Peter Martin George Floyd one, and he’s also done a great one on Grattan Street commemorating the burning of Cork.
This is just the tip of the iceberg there’s many more, and many more artists are getting more commercial commissions too, which is great to see.
Some of our most talented ones, I mentioned in my last street art piece here, and it’s wonderful watching on as Shane O’Driscoll, Deirdre Breen, Mister Everybody and Conor Harrington plus many others do so well. Some of these artists have come from humble and modest beginnings and the underground scene is also still alive, with the likes of the Trouble Club involved in bringing these kind of jams to Cork still.
Art and music and dance and other forms of expression are important for our sanity in this most turbulent of years and I’m glad that Cork city is embracing all of these artists at a time when they should be valued more than ever. After all, every night is culture night really, and it’s worth celebrating our artistic heritage past, present and future, every single day and night of the year!