Urban Art - Changing The Face Of Acton

Emily Hopkins writes about the growing street art movement in W3

( Shisöka by Fin DAC )

Over the last year, an urban arts movement has been rising in Acton. Kickstarted by members of the local community, the Acton Unframed project has shown how arts and culture can be used in a civically minded way to create change for an area.

There is a need for arts projects to become more socially engaged and leave a lasting legacy - Acton Unframed has built itself from the grassroots up and will leave five murals in the neighbourhood for years to come. The hope is that these will bring the community together through workshops and events, whilst bringing world-class and locally grown art to the streets of Acton.

Street art uses the city as a canvas, with the urban landscape becoming a gallery that makes art accessible to anybody who may walk past. The work is free for all to see, sending a message to local communities that this art is for everybody to enjoy. The five murals planned by Acton Unframed will be placed in different locations around the neighbourhood, encouraging residents to go to places that they may not have visited before and creating a local arts community in the process.

In August, the first mural arrived on Myrtle Road. Fin DAC is a street artist of international acclaim, drawing inspiration from the Japanese Geisha culture and the ways in which these traditional and ceremonial practices emerge in the modern day. Acton was chosen as the next site for his work and over the course of a week, crowds came to witness Shisoka come to life. Residents looked on as Fin DAC began painting, and the wall of the Fed & Watered restaurant was transformed.

Day by day, the mural became more realistic and small references to Acton were included: the Myrtle Road street sign was placed atop of a stack of books, as a literary reference to the ‘Poet’s Corner’ location – including Oliver Twist as a nod to Lionel Bart, who lived on Churchfield Road when writing Oliver The Musical. The bowl in the mural even included an abstract pattern that was designed by a young girl from the area. The piece is now complete and brings a beautiful work of art for shoppers to view as they pass by on Churchfield Road. Now, Acton is linked with other sites around the world that display Fin DAC’s work, such as Berlin, Guadalajara, Melbourne and Miami.

Up next, Acton Unframed are working with Matt Small, an artist based in London whose work focuses on the idea of being overlooked – whether this relates to the subjects of his portraits, or the materials he uses to make them. Small says, “The theme of my work is young, dispossessed people: individuals who feel undervalued, who don’t have a voice, who get looked over”. His work aims to give value to things that others may see as disposable, using recycled metals and pieces of rubbish to create art. His pieces aim to show the audience that everything and everyone is worthwhile and has the potential to become something beautiful.

Matt’s mural ties itself to Acton in various ways. First, the piece will be a portrait of Acton’s very own Jamal Edwards MBE. It was in the local youth clubs that Jamal kickstarted his YouTube channel, SB.TV, which showcased the likes of Emeli Sande, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy – now the stars of the UK music scene. Jamal is known as one the nation’s most influential creative entrepreneurs, and he has often cited the important role that both Bollo Brook and Friary Park youth centres played in launching his career. This has led to Jamal launching his JED project, which has seen four youth clubs be refurbished and reopened in the area – another amazing initiative that will have a real impact for the young people of Acton. And so, it made perfect sense for Matt to start creating the mural within Bollo Brook, giving the youth groups who use the space an opportunity to see the piece come to life, and to help inspire a new generation of creatives from the streets of Acton.

Secondly, Matt will be using local materials to create his work, with visits to the Acton Recycling Centre to pick up scrap metal, tins, old toys and disused car parts. Local residents have been donating and recycling their own waste to become part of the mural, and youngsters at Derwentwater School have been

bringing in household metals for Matt to use, too. There are plenty of chances for the local community to watch Matt in action, and updates will be posted on social media to show the murals progress!

The artwork that is emerging from the Acton Unframed project celebrates everything that Acton stands for: a place of opportunity, and a location that should not be overlooked or under-valued. The home of inspiring individuals and forward-thinking ideas, with communities that can work together to create a movement of change. With three murals yet to come, this is only the beginning!

Emily Hopkins

street art

17 December 2019