Grab a can, have a go!

Faith Curtis and Shane Kennedy are using street art and hip-hop lyrics to create connections.

Shane Kennedy was a young graffiti artist in search of a blank wall to paint on. It was the 1980s in Cardiff and street art considered to be the dark underbelly of visual arts. Desperate for a space to work on, he noticed the bare wall of a local fish & chip shop, went inside and asked whether he could put a mural onto it.

Things kept progressing from there. Now a well-established graffiti artist, Shane’s work can be seen in Newcastle and the Hunter region, in Melbourne and New York, in Germany and the Netherlands. He’s also a hip-hop MC and qualified community worker with over 25 years experience.

Faith Curtis has earned a PhD in Human Geography from the University of Newcastle, worked in community development, is teaching Developmental Studies at UoN and has been awarded their 2020 Faculty of Science Excellence in Teaching Award.

By 2014, they were both ready for a change in their professional trajectories. That’s when they decided to bring their respective skills together, to start their own business and to launch UP&UP a social enterprise that uses street art and hip-hop culture to actively engage communities and to create meaningful connections.

“UP&UP stands for unique people and unique promise,” Faith explains. “Everyone has potential, a particular strength or talent to contribute. We help people discover these talents through creative workshops and the conversations that ensue.

“In the beginning, one of our aims was to engage disengaged young people through creative opportunities. But we have since broadened our scope significantly, as street art has become more mainstream. Now we use street art to engage young people as well as the wider community.
“We now develop community-led public art and place making projects for schools, community groups, and local government, but also for businesses.

“When we are installing murals, members of the public stop and chat. People are interested in what we are doing and why, and it’s important to us that we take the time to explain our process.
“The projects we have completed with the Rotary Club Newcastle Enterprise show how street art is becoming more mainstream. Historically, the Rotary Club did a lot of work cleaning off graffiti vandalism, but now they also work with us to produce murals.

“Examples of this partnership are the bird murals painted under the Stockton Bridge, with the designs created based on input from primary school students, a mural project we facilitated with members from Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) or the ongoing connection with community groups in Hamilton South that have resulted in colourful letterboxes and murals on the back of shops.”

Get the juices flowing

“It all starts with a blank space,” Faith says. “We sit down with the stakeholders, with blank pieces of paper. From there we start a free-flowing discussion, we teach the participants to spray paint and we go through a creative process to learn about the people involved and what they would want the mural to be about.
“We then take their ideas and turn them into a design.

Read more about Up&Up in the Spring issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography courtesy of UP&UP

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