Monday, May 20, 2013

Sliema to host street art festival

The Malta Independent 20th May 2013

The Sliema promenade will serve as an exhibition space – and as a canvas – for a wide selection of street artists late next month, for the first edition of the Sliema Street Art Festival. It will take place between June 28-30, but the artworks themselves are set to remain on site all summer. John Cordina writes

The event is the brainchild of Add More Colors, a company which focuses on street art and graffiti and which seeks to enable artists to live on their talent. The company was founded in Sweden, but has been based in Malta since 2009.

AMC director and Sliema resident Peter Brobeck, one of the festival’s organisers, notes that the company admired the country’s attitude towards art, stating that it is “light years ahead of Sweden when it came to open-mindedness and appreciation towards art.”

The Sliema local council has already backed street art initiatives: last summer, a wall beneath the Qui-Si-Sana promenade was decorated by a number of street artists as part of the “Putting Colour in the Streets” project.

The festival came about when the company sought to obtain permits to paint the wall. In the process, Mr Brobeck met Sliema local councillor Pierre Portelli through a mutual friend, and it was through the ensuing discussions that plans to organise the festival were set in motion.

The local council’s blessing provided the organisers – a team of four, including Mr Brobeck – with an ideal exhibition space: the Sliema promenade, starting from the G─žar id-Dud area all the way to Balluta Bay, including the Independence Garden.

The promenade, popular with locals and tourists alike, has hosted a number of art exhibitions in past years, but nothing on this scale.

Organising such a large-scale event brings “tons of challenges,” Mr Brobeck acknowledges, and the organisers aim to create a festival fit for people of all ages and origins.

In the spirit of street art, participation is open to anyone, “regardless of age, citizenship or education.” The only prerequisite, the organisers stress, is “quality and vigour.”

Nine foreign acts – eight solo artists and a sibling duo – have confirmed that they will be participating in the festival. They are David Walker (England), Tank (Germany), Mr Dheo (Portugal), Shaka (France), Sofles (Australia), Smates (Belgium), Steve Locatelli (Belgium), Kayo Natez (Germany) and Brohemia (Sweden).

The festival’s artworks will include traditional graffiti, stencil graffiti, sculptures, sticker art, wheat-pasting, street posters, art intervention, guerrilla art and street installations.

The Independence Garden will be hosting an exhibition area for canvas art, street art photography and sculpture, but artworks will also be set up on easels across the promenade. Over 100 easels are to be set up for artists to exhibit their work, and over 200 square metres of walls will be available for wall art.

Naturally, the street art festival will not simply serve to exhibit works: live painting – as well as collaborations between artists – will also be taking place. And the local council, the organisers note, has given its blessing for participants to colour the promenade itself.

“Every part and object belonging to the Sliema promenade is a possible piece of art,” the event’s organisers state, naming gazebos, benches and phone booths as examples.

This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but Mr Brobeck stresses that this will be no free-for-all without any rules and guidelines.

“We don’t want the promenade to look like a paintball warzone,” he adds.

What the organisers are doing is to screen applications and carefully select the ones that they think will fit on the festival. Once this is done, the selected street artists will be assigned locations – spread across the festival area – to work on.

“So far we’ve only had great ideas and suggested collaborations... there are a lot of creative minds on this island,” Mr Brobeck explains.

The festival will not just host visual arts: appropriately enough, it is set to host a large number of street performers. Musicians and entertainers ranging from solitary buskers to large groups are invited to apply to participate: a number of mini sound systems will be placed in strategic spots along the promenade to allow performers to plug and play with ease.

The organisers plan to turn the festival into an annual event, with Mr Brobeck pointing out that Sliema presently lacks an annual festival of its own, in contrast to many other Maltese towns.

They are also confident that the artwork which will be displayed – and created – during the festival will be well received.

“I have always thought of the Maltese people as very open minded when it comes to street art and graffiti. The art form has grown very popular the last 10 years all around the world, and it’s exciting to live on an island where the people aren’t scared of trying out new things,” Mr Brobeck notes.

The event should have something to offer for people for all ages and personalities, he adds. What it will certainly do, he adds, is lead to a “colourful and pleasant promenade.”

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