Art in the right place

He’s not the first to ask, but a local community member was recently asking on social media: what is art?

Art gallery stuff: yes. Pretty things that people create everywhere: probably. The scrawlings that our kids all bring home from school: who’s to say? Then what about graffiti..?

Local people are currently (but not for the first time) riled by a recent spate of ‘tagging’.

Tagging is when someone repeatedly spray-paints a name or nickname, on walls and surfaces, around a community. The current ‘artist’ doing the rounds goes by the name of ‘MOUSE’: his or her scrawlings (art?) are to be seen in dozens of places around south Leeds.

And quite a lot of people don’t like it: they don’t feel it adds anything, they don’t seem to think it’s art. To quote one (lovely and very level-headed) local resident: “I want to cut his bloody hands off”. I don’t think she was being entirely serious – but she’s bothered.

An old friend of mine argues that tagging is a cry or splurge of self-expression – and that makes it OK. Well, yes to self expression – but surely not if it has a negative impact on, the lives of others. An equivalent might be someone creating music: great, just as long as they’re not banging it out at 3am, keeping the neighbours awake.

You’re never going to please everyone: I know someone who was outraged by the (Council-commissioned) mural at Kirkgate Market, which most people love. And there are authorised public murals that I think are rubbish. But can we agree: our communities would benefit from more art?

I see blank walls everywhere – and every one of them is a piece of art waiting to happen. Murals or pictures that might each day inspire or lift local people, or make them smile. That’s why a bunch of us locally have set out, starting this summer, to create murals across south Leeds (pictured).

We’d love to work with others on this long-term project. Do you have a prominent wall you’d donate to us? Could you gather local people in a neighbourhood to share ideas and create something together – with us if you need, or just crack on? Or are there schools or groups who want to join in (we’ve already got one signed up)? It needn’t cost much at all, if people share their time. And we’ve got some big projects in our sights too – like the creation of murals along the sides of the Inner Ring Road under the city.

And maybe we could work with some of the taggers – if they’re reading this, please get in touch! A few years ago, in Seacroft, they were really battling with tagging – but the fantastic LS14 Development Trust tracked down the perpetrators, and brought in some professional graffiti artists to work with them, and together created some top-class local murals. And the tagging stopped.

Let’s do this: let’s get creative, and make south Leeds even more beautiful than it already is.

PS We know that our latest mural has been defaced and we will fix it. And if it’s defaced we’ll fix it again because we believe we are brightening our neighbourhoods.