Following a call out for artists in late August 2020 by Fusion Arts and partner Oxford City Council, three new murals are to being installed in Oxford and along Cowley Road (at time of writing, George Street and Manzil Way have been finished). Each mural spreads the stay safe message to highlight the current pandemic situation, whilst reflecting the area and Oxford’s diverse communities.
“These multiple commissions are supporting a variety of artists to produce meaningful, relevant and inspirational artworks on the streets of Oxford City Centre and Cowley Road. The murals reinforce the importance of community, thanks key workers and ultimately tell the stay safe message.
We’re pleased to be working again with Oxford City Council. We’re grateful for their support and their recognition of the importance of arts and culture, and the vital role it plays in the lives of our communities and the local economy.”
Kieran, Artistic Director
George Street Mural
Artist Luke Embden was chosen to produce the mural on the boarding covering 1 – 3 George Street, one of Oxford’s busiest streets. Hailing from near Chipping Norton, and now based both in London and Berlin, Embden’s bold, geometric, pop-art inspired mural reflects the City, its community and reiterates the stay safe message.
The hope is that this mural brings a vibrancy and wow-factor to the disused units and creates joy for locals and visitors to the city.
Embden has used his bold colour palette and infectious graphic style on projects all over the world, but due to the pandemic is back here in Oxfordshire with family. Embden does commercial work for global brands but his passion lies in community-based projects where he interacts and engages with the public, looking upon his work as performance art, feeding off the surrounding environment and the energy of people that he meets.
Manzil Way Gardens Mural
On Friday 18th September, artist Bryony Benge-Abbot started a mural in the gardens, weaving in statements of gratitude for acts of kindness people have shown throughout lockdown. These statements were collected from the local community via social media and face to face and are included in the mural as a thank you, demonstrating how our communities rely on each other and are interconnected. The stay safe message and the need to support each other at this time also plays a big part.
“This is exactly the kind of project I love – purposeful, meaningful public engagement with science, injecting beauty into urban space, conveying important messages of compassion and interconnectedness. Street art is such a great way to publicly express gratitude towards key workers and to celebrate the greater sense of solidarity that emerged during lockdown, in spite of all of the hardships and challenges we’ve been facing.
I hope that this heightened awareness and appreciation of community is retained as we move into the ‘new normal’ and am very much looking forward to receiving messages from local residents, which I will incorporate into my ‘organic root design’ of the city.”
artist, Bryony Benge-Abbot
Her creative practice has been shaped by 12 years’ experience curating, designing, and producing exhibitions for world-leading social history museums and scientific research institutes. Benge-Abbott’s bold, colourful paintings are built in layers, interweaving memory-traces with maps, ancient mythology with botany, and playing with scale, colour and pattern in the search for fresh perspectives on human and nature connectedness.
Alongside running her artistic practice, Bryony Benge-Abbot is also currently Public Engagement Manager (exhibitions) at The Francis Crick Institute which is a Covid-19 testing and research site.
Three Oxford based artists, Lisa Curtis, Eleanor (Nor) Greenhalgh and Sam Skinner, collaborated on the final mural on boarding covering the front of The Bullingdon on Cowley Road.
Of their mural, the artists commented,
“We wanted to emphasise the importance of care and looking out for each other, as our best chance of fighting Covid. The community itself must be our protection. The phrase “You are my contingency” flips the authoritative tone of usual Covid messaging and underlines vulnerability: we all ultimately rely on one another.”
Greenhalgh works across visual art and facilitation, focussing on themes of gender and the negotiation of shared space. She facilitates the community image archive CowleyRoad.org, funded by Lankelly Chase and Greening Lambourn Trust and has recently produced the Absent Friends papier mache sculptures around the city. See Nor’s website here.
Sam Skinner is an artist, curator and researcher. His work is often produced through processes of co-design and community engagement, with a strong emphasis on research, participation, and conversation. See Sam’s website here.
Lisa Curtis is an illustrator and designer and has painted a number of murals in Oxford the last few years including scale wall works of art at local pubs and cafes, to much larger murals commissioned within the community. See Lisa’s website here.
Funding and support have kindly come from the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely fund (RHSS), Oxfordshire County Council and from City Councilors Jamila Begum Azad, Tom Hayes, Alex Hollingsworth and Richard Howlett. The Bullingdon are supporting the project by installing an artwork on their building and Oxford Direct Services were instrumental in putting up the new hoardings. All three murals will be completed by the end of September.