Sheffield's streets are an art-lover's paradise
Walk down almost any street in the city centre and you'll stumble across a riot of colour interrupting the the urban skyline.
Street art is scattered around Sheffield – hidden gems waiting to be found.
This week in The Star, as part of our Pride of Sheffield campaign, we have heard from local business owners fighting a battle against illegal graffiti taggers who vandalise the walls of their premises.
And today, we speak to people who believe urban art has an important place in our city.
As part of a new initiative, Sheffield Antiques Quarter – a browser’s paradise in the south of the city – has planned a series of murals and smaller scale artworks for walls in the area. There are also grand plans for sculptures and pavement art.
Artist and chairman of Sheffield Antiques Quarter, Hendrika Stephens, said the scheme will bring people to the area and will also prevent illegal tagging.
She said: “We’re going to enhance the area with street art. We need to engage young people and tackle anti-social behaviour. There’s been a lot of tagging here but once the murals go up they are mostly left alone as there is a respect for that piece of art.
“The council doesn’t have the money to keep cleaning things off so this is another solution. It would just be one of the ways to brighten up anywhere that looks a bit scruffy.”
On Abbeydale Road, an eye-catching peacock by Jools Mathews at Vintedge has claimed the Open Reach boxes outside the store and many more will become miniature high-rise flats at the hand of Sid Fletcher.
A mural paying homage to the area by Jo Peel now adorns the side of Hagglers Corner on Queens Road.
These projects have been funded by the community through crowdfunding and donations from businesses.
Antiques Quarter bosses also have plans for workshops to be held with street artists later this year and are considering creating a street art map.
Hendrika said: “It would be great to walk only 20 yards, and be able to see some art and then walk another 20 yards. It will be good for businesses and it’s something that’s really taking off.
“It is a great way of decorating the city and it will bring in visitors.”
With home-grown graffiti artists such as Kid Acne and Phlegm having found worldwide fame, the city has more than enough talent to show off.
A report commissioned by the University of Sheffield published in February came up with some creative solutions to bring more investment into the city, including setting up a large street art festival to rival those in Birmingham and Bristol.
Kid Acne’s Kill Your Darlings exhibition at Museums Sheffield in 2011 attracted more than 50,000 visitors and Phlegm’s market traders’ installation, Castle House, was a great success.
The report said: “We would like to see more communication between local government and the visual arts; wider, better and more experimental use of buildings before they are sold off and perhaps instead of being sold off; more help across the arts sector rather than just flagship projects; and most of all a reciprocity of the feeling that visual arts matter for the city in the same way that the city matters to visual artists.”
Prof Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and cultural engagement at the University of Sheffield, said after the findings were published: “This report highlights the huge eclectic mix of artistic talent we have in the city and the potential we have to make Sheffield a destination venue for art.”
Even those who are fighting a battle against graffiti are not opposed to seeing some genuine art on the streets.
Dave Ogle and Gary Lakin of Friends of High Green Streets and Parks community group have been fighting a battle against spray paint for the last two years and have cleaned hundreds of tags from buildings in the area.
Gary said: “If it had any artistic merit we would leave it there.”
The city has a long history of street art, from well-respected artists like Rocket01, whose murals of David Attenborough and Patrick Moore can be seen in the city centre, to infamous tagger ‘Fista,’ who was jailed after he defaced walls throughout the city.
Photographer Tim Glasby is co-writing a book on Sheffield’s graffiti scene. He has spent time with some of the city’s most respected street artists – as well as some of the most notorious taggers.
The book, These Streets are Ours, will feature in-depth interviews with graffiti artists.
He said: “Sheffield is full of amazing artists. The problem is graffiti is two separate ideas. Street art is seen to be legal – they are commissioned pieces or they are done in legal areas – then there’s the tagging, which is seen as aggressive and invasive.”
Tim said he is not against tagging but agrees the way to stop it would be by painting more murals around the city.
He said: “Tidying up won’t stop it because somebody will just bomb that area. It’s just naive I’m afraid. Artists come here to visit Sheffield because there is an underground scene. It’s disused warehouses and that’s where the art scene is – off the beaten path.
“In Bristol, artists are invited to paint on walls and they don’t get tagged over – most of the time. There will always be those that will do it, though.
“Even the most respected artists had to start somewhere to get where they are now and the artists need space to do that.”
He said he feels that Sheffielders do think there is a place in the city for street art.
Tim said: I think it is being embraced. There have been more commissioned pieces like the ones by Foundry and Rocket01 in the last couple of years.
“In other places there is a lot of money ploughed into street art. In London people make a living out of it. Whether that would work here I don’t know. The council would have to get behind it.
“There’s a strong community within the scene as well, there’s a lot of artists that know each other and do collaborations, they‘ve grown up together.
“I think people really like seeing it on the walls. It adds colour to the city. Sheffield is a dark and gloomy place without it.”