Street art brings famous faces and rainbow of colour to Sunderland city centre

The vibrant temporary murals have appeared as part of the nationwide The Postman street art project – and Sunderland artists are also being invited to get involved to help transform the streets in and around Sunniside permanently for a local version of the project called Future Walls.

The installation of the temporary pieces coincided with the recent Sunlun Calling festival and Sunderland Pride which also included spray paint workshops, led by Art of Protest Projects (AoPP), to explore how art can reinvent the cityscape and change the way we interact with the spaces around us.

Organisations behind Future Walls, led by Sunderland Business Improvement District, are now looking to work with local artists to create permanent artwork on walls around Sunniside and the wider Sunderland area.

New street art in and around SunnisideNew street art in and around Sunniside
New street art in and around Sunniside

Local artist Albert Bennett-Cowell said: “For me, Future Walls and the projects we’re doing with them are the first proper steps towards building a functioning arts scene in Sunderland and the North East. We have high-quality arts education here in the city but there’s almost no evidence of that, and the artists we produce leave this city because they feel there isn’t a scene here for them to enter.

“Putting up murals and artworks and engaging in programmes like Future Walls is the next step in this city reaching its full potential as a landmark of the North East and the UK.”

“I don’t want to just see big buildings going up and more jobs being produced, I also want to help make this city a beautiful and vibrant place to live and work, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Future Walls.”

As part of the community engagement project, the team has visited Sunderland College, the University of Sunderland, several local schools, the National Glass Centre and several other local community groups to deliver spray paint workshops.

The Postman wall art of Beyoncé on Villiers Street.The Postman wall art of Beyoncé on Villiers Street.
The Postman wall art of Beyoncé on Villiers Street.

Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID, said: “Sunniside is set to be transformed, with council led plans to regenerate it, as a community where the city’s talented artists can live, work and play.

“We were keen to spark discussion about art in Sunniside, to help people see the art of the possible, with temporary installations that show how transformational art can be.

“There has been such a good response from members of the public and people who visited the Sunniside events over the weekend, and we’re keen to explore how we develop permanent plans, working with local creatives, to ensure that we build on this.”

The pop up works include Alice in Wonderland at Jopling House, Pink on the corner near Frances Marshall hairdressing, Elton John in Sunniside Gardens and Beyoncé in Villiers Street.

Alice in Wonderland at Jopling HouseAlice in Wonderland at Jopling House
Alice in Wonderland at Jopling House

A Future Talent development programme has recruited more than ten local creatives, with more spaces available to anyone who wants to contribute, giving them the opportunity to help splash their own art onto the walls.

Jeff Clark, director of Art of Protest Projects, said “It’s been an absolute privilege and honour to get to know the people, the culture, the identity of Sunderland. The warm welcome we’ve had from the local community has absolutely blown us away.

“Getting to work with so many partners to shape and form this project feels like it’s been done the right way, with the people of Sunderland prioritised above all else.

“We want to create a springboard for locals to jump from, helping increase artists’ visibility and create a visually engaging and imaginative urban backdrop for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”

The project will complement a council-led regeneration strategy for Sunniside, that will see the area established as a creative hub, with exciting new developments including the creation of a cluster of studio homes for creatives and artists.

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