December 28th 2017

Young artists convert construction site perimeter into community canvas



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The perimeter of the Hackney New Primary School construction site has been converted into a “community canvas” for the art work of creative teenagers as part of a project that is linking commercial enterprise with the community.

As part of the fledgling Open Art initiative, 25 largescale paintings, based on the theme ‘love and loss’ are being displayed on construction hoarding boards surrounding the Kingsland Road development.

The Benyon Estate and bespoke property developers Thornsett are bringing forth the transformation of the former fire station site in order to provide a new 350-pupil primary school and social housing.

The paintings have been created by year 10 students at Hackney New School and is a continuation of an inaugural project involving 23 young artists from year nine, whose work formed a mural around the perimeter of another of the Estate’s development sites on the Englefield Road earlier this year. Their work will be used as part of their GCSE art submission.

The younger cohort’s paintings were underpinned with evocative messages encompassing the theme ‘community’ including, ‘limitations only exist if you let them’, ‘your feelings are just art’, ‘don’t love with your eyes – love with your heart’.

Art Director Paul Coomey, 38, founded the project having recognised the potential otherwise drab and graffiti blighted hoardings boards have as platforms for community art.

“There is a lot of community art work happening in the area which doesn’t have a platform to be showcased,” he said. “And there is a lot of construction work going on which is surrounded with plain boards which often attract graffiti. I have long thought there is some potential here. Due to its temporary nature, it’s almost like the project is an exhibition on a community canvas. It allows the young artists to reach beyond the pieces of A3 paper in the classroom.”

The project was part of a Corporate Social Responsibility commitment, which involves developers reinvesting in the community, by the Benyon Estate which is sponsoring the projects.

The 68 residential units being built at the site have been acquired by Dolphin Living who announced in July that half will be made available as intermediate rental homes for working Londoners on modest salaries.

The Benyon Estate and Thornsett are making a contribution of £1.5 million to Hackney Council to help with the borough’s affordable housing needs.

Paul said his original hope was to give the Estate the chance to connect with the community on a far more meaningful level.

Estate Manager Edward Benyon was on board immediately, and keen to get the idea off the ground as soon as possible, subsequently suggested the Kingsland Road site in addition to the one on Englefield Road in order to give more young people the opportunity to have their work displayed.

The young artists were easy to get on board and seemed to get a real kick out of it.

“The young artists were easy to get on board and seemed to get a real kick out of it,” continued Paul who has been supported by teacher and Head of Art, Amy Birchard. “When they first saw their work on display, they were playing it cool as teenagers do! But you could see how they felt from the smiles on their faces.

“On a personal level, my day to day job involves me commissioning illustrators and artists with very specific briefs, so this was a much freer process and one that was very enjoyable to witness. I’m hugely grateful to the Benyon Estate which has helped ensure it’s a viable project. My hope is that as it grows, there will be funding available for artists to host workshops at the school to inspire them further.”

Year 10 student Abimbola Taylor, 15, said: “My portraits try to show the emotions within the person I am painting. The eyes can show if someone is sad, happy or distant. I gave the painting a sunset to show that a new day will bring new opportunities.”

Edward Benyon, added: “Paul’s idea is fantastic and it is an absolute pleasure to be able to provide the platform for the brilliant and inspiring art work of these young artists, and support Paul’s efforts to showcase community art. The art work has brightened up the perimeter of two of our sites while construction work takes place, and we hope it will brighten up the days of passers-by too.”