14. Winner - Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

A mural by Sonny, part of the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival

Schoolteacher Edel Tobin was inspired by an event on the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia when she came up with the idea for the Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival. In 2014, the Djerbahood Project involved 150 street artists using the island as a blank canvas to transform it into a real-life open air museum.

“I saw a lot of similarity between that place and the demographics and history in Waterford,” says Tobin.

“After the recession we had a lot of vacant, derelict buildings. I wanted to partner with Waterford City Council to basically re-imagine the city by bringing in street artists and brightening up specific areas.”

Tobin started on a small scale with the New Street Gardens project, where schoolchildren painted murals to revitalise a disused space near the city centre. In 2015, 25 derelict buildings were transformed by murals painted by street artists living in Ireland such as James Earley as part of the first Waterford Walls Festival.

Since then, the festival has grown to the point where there are over 130 painted sites around the city, forming art trails and driving workshops geared towards both schools and businesses. The year for people to enjoy, but to date only about half of them have been painted over.

“After the first year, we were inundated with artist submissions from all over the world. For the 2016, 2017 and 2018 festivals I sat down with curator Louise Flynn to decide which three to choose as the headline artists. We are also very focused on encouraging and nurturing local talent,” says Tobin. “Because the festival is free and people can access all areas they can really get a sense of how an artist works in an intimate setting. It really is special in that way.”

With paint stores in Waterford City for the past 15 years, Colourtrend was the main sponsor of Waterford Walls in 2015 and has supported it ever since. “Funding was always going to be struggle in the first year as we were trying to change people’s perceptions that street art is a valid art-form and not vandalism,” says Tobin. “Colourtrend supplies us with thousands of litres of paint each year and the staff in the Waterford stores bend over backwards to facilitate us. The artists tell us they couldn’t work with a better emulsion brand. One of the headline artists in 2017, Fintan Magee from Australia, said he had painted with many brands but after the festival switched to Colourtrend.”

Street artists often have colour requirements that are outside of the norm. Colourtrend will work with them to give them exactly what they need by, for example, manipulating the tinting system to make a colour look old or providing advice on the blending of materials such as spray paints and metallic paints. “We can give advice on what will go on and stay on. There is quite a lot of technology involved with certain surfaces. The last thing you want with a mural is that the paint will peel off,” explains sales and marketing director at Colourtrend Liam Holland.

“When Edel approached us we were quite happy to help to enhance the environment we live in as this is what our brand is all about,” he adds. “The festival has come on in leaps and bounds and has achieved national exposure. But for us it is more about the community aspect and the fact that we are giving a little back.”

The 2018 festival last August featured some of the world’s most impressive street artists, including Australian artist SMUG One, Dan Kitchener from the UK, French collective Monkey Bird Crew and Irish artists Joe Caslin and Danleo.

“We’re really pleased to present the daa €5,000 Arts Award to Waterford Walls, a street art festival that transforms unloved walls – often on derelict or empty buildings – into a huge openair gallery throughout the city,” says Paul O’Kane, chief communications officer at the daa.

Colourtrend and Waterford Walls were also shortlisted in the Best Use of Creativity in the Community category in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

Design by New Graphic.