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Caitlin Rush June 2 2019

Can street art revive an area? Is it an eyesore or a feast for the senses? Is graffiti a work of art or destroying city architecture?

Scotland has embraced the transformative power of street art and I, for one, am a big fan. Public art has become a tool to breathe life into forgotten areas of Scotland’s cities, drawing tourists and locals alike to new, re-emerging urban centres.

Instead of words, street art in 2019 encompasses characters, murals, portraits and public art on a grand scale. It leads people off-the-beaten-track to discover lesser-known and, perhaps, more authentic districts, while encouraging locals to take pride in their city.

 

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Absolute Escapes offer award-winning self-drive holidays in Scotland which can be customised to match your interests and budget. Why not treat your eyes to something different and discover Scotland’s best street art on your tailor-made trip?

Here are some of my highlights of the Scottish street art scene.

Glasgow

In the last twenty years, Glasgow has gone through extensive urban regeneration. This vibrant city has revamped itself to become the epitome of modern, post-industrial success, known for its adventurous restaurants, shopping and long-standing and successful cultural scene.

Street art has become synonymous with Glasgow’s contemporary image, and new pieces of artwork are commissioned regularly. As a young student, I had a flat in the beautiful Merchant City, one of Glasgow’s oldest quarters. Once the stomping ground of wealthy traders and home to the old fruit and meat markets it is now a cultural centre in the heart of the city, akin to London’s Covent Garden.

 

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Living here, we once spent a whole afternoon watching with delight as a giant mural was painted on the huge wall of the previously dingy car park opposite our flat. This was a piece called ‘Fellow Glasgow Residents‘ which features an array of animals found in Glasgow’s green spaces. It totally transformed our street and gradually murals cropped up throughout the city.

These have been a stunning addition to the cityscape, full of vibrancy and colour.

 

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The City Centre Mural Trail is a great way to explore Glasgow. Established in 2008, the trail aims to brighten up vacant sites and rejuvenate the streets in order to support local businesses. There is a huge variety of artwork and any local artist can apply to Glasgow council to get involved.

Here are some of my favourites:

Saint Mungo – depicts St Mungo the patron saint of Glasgow in modern-day clothes. By SMUG

 

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Billy Connolly – three murals commissioned to honour international star Billy Connolly’s 75th birthday by Jack Vettriano, John Byrne and Rachel Maclean. The original portraits are on display in the People’s Palace.

 

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The World’s Most Economical Taxi – such a fun image by Rogue One.

 

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Dundee

2019 is Dundee’s year. Until now it has been a lesser-visited Scottish city, however with the new V&A Museum (Scotland’s first design museum) and the regeneration of the riverside – the city is finding its place on the tourism map.

Dundee’s latest street art project – Open/Close – offers a unique way to explore the city, with two trails of painted doors featuring 38 individual pieces by local artists. As in Glasgow, the project aims to bring life to forgotten corners, enhancing city life for all to enjoy.

 

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Begun in 2017 the plan was to create six pieces of art but so many artists (many from the successful art school) were keen to volunteer and get involved that the project quickly exploded.

The second trail around the Stobswell area was created to show tourists the “Real Dundee” away from the main waterfront, and all proceeds from map sales and tours go towards future artwork.

Some of my favourites are work by Dundee-based Paco Graff, and jewellery and kilt pin designer Islay Spalding.

 

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Aberdeen

In the granite city of Aberdeen, new pieces of artwork have revitalised the city, bringing a new sense of excitement to the city walls.

Nuart Street Art Festival is now a permanent feature of the city arts calendar and has brought artists from all over the world to paint their mark on Aberdeen. Most artwork is concentrated in and around Union Street in the city centre and can be easily explored in a day.

 

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One of my favourite pieces by artist Snik is on Ship Row, just off Union Street, and features a young woman being dragged into the sky by a group of bluetits.

 

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Edinburgh

Edinburgh is more closely associated with fine art and old town architecture than street art, but head down to the city’s port and you will find the revitalised area of Leith – the hub for music and arts.

Arts organisation LeithLate has been responsible for spearheading street art in Leith. Their shutter project aims to transform shop shutters around the district, while their mural project uses artwork to represent the history and community spirit of Leith.

 

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The first mural, Leith Aquatic, was painted in 2013 in consultation with residents from a local housing scheme. As more and more restaurants, bars and cultural venues open in Leith, street art has become a permanent and enthralling feature. We’d highly recommend visiting this vibrant corner of Edinburgh!

 

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This part of town also hosts the UK’s longest legal graffiti wall at 330m! The Marine Parade Graffiti wall was created in 2018 and forms an alternative outside gallery.

 

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All in all

The street art offered in Scotland’s cities is so varied, there really is something for everyone. You often come across it unexpectedly and it can’t fail to delight. The best thing is that street art is out in the open for anyone to enjoy. It is a free and inclusive art form that reflects the inclusive and welcoming nature of Scotland. Iconic images connect people and re-energise landscapes in a modern art form that has well and truly found its place here.

At Absolute Escapes, we are big fans of getting outside, and street art offers the perfect opportunity to mix this with a splash of culture!

Caitlin Rush

P.S. Discover Scotland’s cities on one of our tailor-made Scottish self-drive holidays and get off-the-beaten-track!

 

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