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When street artist Phlegm came to the Isle of Wight…

How do we breathe new life into our town centres? Ventnor Exchange has been exploring new ideas with a strand of work we’ve called Urban Experiments. The objective is to try new ways to animate and activate our urban landscape.

In 2016/2017 we created the ‘Portrait of a Town’ project, inspired by the work of artists like the French street artist JR and the Humans of New York initiative. We photographed hundreds of local residents and installed their portraits in locations throughout the town. The project was so well received we decided we’d work on another urban intervention this year.

We where incredibly excited that one of our favourite street artists Phlegm agreed to take up a residency in our little town to work on a mural inspired by Ventnor. Phlegm’s work can be seen all over the world, and he made headlines recently with the worlds tallest mural on the side of a tower block in Toronto so we where thrilled that he agreed to come to the Island.

Over a week in the lead up to Ventnor Fringe Phlegm created an epic three story mural inspired by the town; it’s geography, architecture and residents. Created entirely with spray cans it’s an incredibly detailed piece of work which has already won admirers all over the world.  Look carefully and you’ll spot lots of buildings and features from the area – including the Ventnor Exchange!

The commission also marks the launch of Lift The Lid, a new two year project which aims to reignite a sense of pride and passion in cultural heritage on the Isle of Wight. As a partner organisation we where thrilled for the first artwork to be created in Ventnor but more will be following in Totland, Newport and East Cowes with each area deciding on what work they want to commission.
For us, working with a street artist was primarily a response to a survey of young people on the island who voted street art as the artistic activity they would most like to see and we feel the mural portrays a pretty bold and inspiring entrance into the town centre. It’s been exciting seeing visitors walk right through the town to take a closer look and new life brought to a dreary corner of town.

It’s been great to take our activity out of the Exchange and into the streets and continue to find ways to make our town centres more exciting, interesting places to live and work in. Often projects around the environment in rural areas can overlook the urban spaces that exist, even in the countryside! Hopefully the Isle of Wight’ largest mural will help show how important is is that we look at the areas where people live and work, as well as the outstanding nature around us.

It looks like our Urban Experiments might well continue so keep an eye out for a new intervention next year!


Photos by Julian Winslow
Video by Glass House Productions




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