Aberdeen goes bold as Nuart street art festival takes over

Artist Ernest Zacharevic from Lithuania completes his giant work on the side of an Aberdeen office block. PIC: Contributed.
Artist Ernest Zacharevic from Lithuania completes his giant work on the side of an Aberdeen office block. PIC: Contributed.
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Aberdeen is undergoing a bold transformation as the world’s leading street art festival takes over gigantic walls, street corners and alleyways across the city with the works to remain on permanent display.

Nuart is making it mark for the second year running with the festival first arriving from its home in Stavanger, Norway - a twin city of Aberdeen - in 2017.

Eleven new large scale works of public art have been produced for the event, which runs until Sunday, with a programme of talks, tours, demonstrations and music events to enhance the cultural celebration.

Once the festival draws to a close, the art works will be left in place, with the city building up an impressive collection of permanent public pieces as a result.

Artists have travelled from countries including Argentina, Lithuania, Spain and Portugal for the event with others from London and Glasgow showcasing their work.

It is hoped that Nuart will help reposition Aberdeen as an arts and culture destination and forge a new identity for the city that has been inextricably linked to the oil and gas industry for more than three decades.

Elaine Farquharson-Black, a director of Aberdeen Inspired, which works to improve the city centre on behalf of 700 businesses it represents, was key to attracting the street art festival to the North East.

Ms Farquharson-Black, a planning lawyer with Burness Paull, a key sponsor of the event whose office block now carries one of the largest art works in the festival, said: “There was just something really different about Nuart and what was really exciting was that it was going to lead to both Aberdonians and visitors to look at the city in a different way.

“We have a reputation of being Conservative with a small C, a bit grey, a bit dour and we are known for the oil and gas industry. Nuart is a chance to show we have a different side.”

Today (Thursday), the final touches were being added to the public art works which have a huge range of style and tone, from the political to the playful and the fantastical.

Artist Carrie Reichardt has focussed her Nuart 2018 work on the “herstory” of the North East Suffragette movement and the Scottish witch trials.

She has also completed a work called Everyday Heroes which toasts the success of Aberdonians from all walks of life.

Mr Reichardt said: “ The thing about street art is that is it so democratic. If you go into a museum or a gallery , you feel instantly intimidated but street art is accessible to everyone. It’s not just about young people liking Banksy, its about little old people taking photographs of the work and seeing it as part of their city.”

Ms Reichardt said Aberdeen had proved to be a brilliant backdrop for the festival.

“It’s wonderful. The thing about Aberdeen is that you don’t have all the clutter, the advertising hoardings and the pollution that you do in London. Everything there is competing for space. Here, just a little bit of colour looks amazing, like a little jewel.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said Nuart had been a “risk” worth taking for the city.

She said: “We have had troubled times in Aberdeen, our economy has taken a bit of a hit, but that make it all the more important that we working in partnership with others moving forward. We took a risk last year (with Nuart) and as public sector people we are not all that keen on risk. What we did realise that they work that Aberdeen Inspired had put in to secure the festival for Aberdeen meant that we had to support it.”

Aberdeen City Council will now welcome Nuart back to the city for the next three years.

Ms Laing said she wanted the city to boast a creative environment, one that would excite young people in Aberdeen and “hold them here.”

“We want them to be interested in arts and culture, capture their imaginations and secure the vibrancy of the city,” she added.