In recent years, our neighbours in Waterford have led the way in this regard and last weekend, from August 22-25, they held the fifth Waterford Walls street art festival. Since 2015, they have invited 130 artists from all over the world to reimagine Waterford, and adorn its buildings.
It’s an amazing festival of live painting, guided art trails, and expert panel talks. I dj’d at the wrap party, in Dive records, and only got a chance to have a quick stroll around the neighbouring streets, but even in ten minutes, I saw impressive work that was created pretty much overnight. It’s a fantastic festival of music and art, and a really impressive addition to the cultural calendar in Waterford.
In Cork, we don’t have a street art festival of this magnitude, but there has been an underground street art scene for years, and many of our finest artists have learnt their craft on the streets.
That underground scene still has a decent community, but street art in Cork has become mainstream, with some huge commissions on walls around the city.
In recent weeks, significant works have been painted on prominent buildings, with Shane O’Driscoll’s reworking of the disused ESB substation by Brown Thomas being the latest in a number of colourful new commissions. It’s a spectacular addition to Caroline Street, and the accompanying lighting, running across the street at night, also adds to the overall vibe.
I worked with Shane in the Glucksman and Cork Printmakers during August, for a project with young migrants and refugees, called Change the Beat, and I saw his talent and dedication.
Shane also has work at Crosses Green, as do other artists, and he was painting in Waterford this weekend, as well.
One of the most notable and poignant additions to Cork street art is a mural of a Kingfisher on the gable wall of a building at the entrance to the Paul’s Street car park. This was commissioned by Cork City Council from their City Centre Placemaking fund, and it was created by UK artist, Curtis Hilton. The project also involved Blackrock Castle and the aforementioned Waterford Walls festival.
Cork artist Deirdre Breen has recently completed a mural opposite UCC gates. It is called ‘Bandfield,’ and the bike rack is now an eye-catching tribute to the Mardyke 300 celebrations in a project curated by Tadhg Crowley and the Glucksman. Local artist Garreth Joyce had, earlier this summer, unveiled another spectacular piece of work, on another ESB substation, by the Huguenot Quarter on Carey’s Lane. Again, a wonderful array of colours bring a previously nondescript wall to life on a street that is also being reimagined by music venue Dali and Gali, formerly the Pavilion. They are redoing their exterior, too.
There are also murals as you enter the city by the back of the train station and also as you come down Sunday’s Well, plus the ‘This is Paradise’ painting just off South Main Street and Liberty Street. There are many more, too, and I understand many others have been commissioned.
The Lido, in Blackpool, was redone in association with Cork community artlink and Alan Hurley, while various artists have done some amazing work up by the Mardyke over the last few months. Trixy also did a cool Live at the Marquee piece for Aiken promotions this summer.
The powers that be have a vision for our city that recognises the social value of this kind of art. It beautifies the built environment. Our best-known artist, Conor Harrington, will surely be commissioned to do something on a big scale here soon.
His work is on display on huge walls all over the world and I understand there is a hunger to get him back here for a big project. Let’s hope that this kind of art, which has its roots on the streets and in urban youth culture, continues to be celebrated in Cork.