Paint the Change created its first mural in Norway during the first week of September, featuring work by the international street artist Hyuro at the Nuart Festival in Stavanger. Nuart, founded by gallerist Martyn Reed, has held its annual festival celebrating street art for 19 years, exhibiting installations of murals, site-specific artworks, conference discussions, film screenings and other events, all intended to promote street art’s power to “activate” the urban landscape and to involve the general public in art.
Paint the Change coordinators Joanne Skoulikas and Saleem Vaillancourt also shared information about their organisation’s work at the Nuart conference – focusing particularly on the worldwide Education Is Not A Crime campaign and recent community street art projects in East London.
“We were thrilled to join Nuart this year,” Saleem said, “because it gave us a chance to learn from other artists and producers in the street art community. We also had a chance to talk about our mission to use street art for social justice – something we’ve done in places like Harlem and most recently in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney in London.”
Argentinian street artist Hyuro produced two artworks at Nuart for Paint the Change. The first, a mural in a residential neighbourhood near the festival, featured two hands reaching across a border from opposite sides, a response to the refugee crisis that continues to unfold across Europe. Hyuro’s second work was installed in one of a series of tunnels at the festival venue, and featured a series of self-portraits in which Hyuro depicts herself urinating whilst standing up — a statement on female empowerment.
“The refugee crisis is something that I see happening,” Hyuro said, adding that although she was not personally implicated in it or directly suffered because of it, “at the same time, we cannot do nothing. I need to still speak about that, and in a soft way, because for me it is a way to scream and take out that anger.”
Nuart is a unique and popular festival because of its diversity – the event brings together a range of different artists from all over the world working in a variety of mediums, united in their recognition of the power of public street art. One example is Carrie Reichardt, an artist and ceramicist based in London who creates mosaic wall features and attends Nuart every year. “I think what makes Nuart so special is that Martyn Reed brings together such amazing groups of people that all have a similar ethos and want to work together,” she said. “I think that art is one of those things that opens up a dialogue which often doesn't exist, and it enables us to kind of show each other our humanity and lets us show our similarities and we can all appreciate something. I think it's classless.”
Paul Harfleet also spoke at Nuart. An artist and writer, he plants pansies at the sites of homophobic abuse. Although Paul doesn’t consider himself to be “a political animal as such,” his distinctive form of street art gave him the opportunity to discuss social activism: “I found myself being in all of these situations where I was discussing homophobia and discussing how it happens and why it happens. So, for me, part of the project is speaking about homophobia in various contexts and being on various panels.” For Paul, the community aspect of street art and creative activism is another benefit: “When I've planted the pansies in the community often ... I will meet with the community and I will gather locations from them and then I will plant with them. So that makes it a really healing moment.”
Much like the work of Paul and Carrie, Hyuro’s mural on the refugee crisis speaks to the Paint the Change mission to raise social issues through public art. Her piece invites passersby to consider these issues and reflect on how they interact with them.