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Sandfields Library receives new lease of life with mural artwork

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A new mural has been unveiled at the recently re-opened Sandfields Library, with the aim of welcoming the local community back to the building following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The artwork was painted by a local teacher and funded by J.G. Hale Construction as part of the community benefits associated with Tai Tarian’s nearby County Flats scheme – a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.

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The mural’s artist, Adam John, teaches art at the nearby comprehensive school, Ysgol Bae Baglan. John completed the mural volunteering in his spare time, after school and on weekends, over a total of 30 hours.

The idea for the mural was suggested to the County Flats scheme developer – social housing provider, Tai Tarian – by library staff. It covers one external wall of the library and showcases some of the activities and services available within the building.

The spectacular artwork depicts a meadow scene and a portrayal of the Aberavon seafront, with a rainbow over it to represent the heroic commitment of the NHS throughout the pandemic. The wildflowers and butterflies painted in the mural represent a wider initiative between Tai Tarian, local councillor, Sean Pursey, and Buglife Cymru, around transforming open spaces with wildflowers.

The picture also includes three sheep, which represent the innovative use of Welsh Sheep’s wool being utilised to insulate the properties in the Sandfields development.

The County Flats scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes, delivered across three phases, over three years – with phase one nearing completion. It will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.

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Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.

The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.

David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to have been able to fund this mural as part of the County Flats development’s community benefits in collaboration with Tai Tarian. The painting really brightens the area up and should be a welcoming sight to those returning to the library following the coronavirus shutdown.”

Adam John, Art Teacher at Ysgol Bae Baglan who painted the mural, said: “The opportunity to create a mural in the heart of the estate was difficult to turn down. Having taught in the community for nearly 20 years, I knew I had to say yes.

“I always feel proud that I can inspire our children to be more creative, and I knew it would be well received. Our pupils love seeing artwork and truly appreciate skills which go into an outcome. I’ve painted many sets over the years, which are always enjoyed by our pupils and visitors, but they are replaced every year, so it was great to leave my efforts on a wall for many years to come. The mural allowed me to give something back to the community; a little reminder to current and ex-pupils that they too can make a difference in their own community.”

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Rebecca Thomas, Tai Tarian’s Social and Economic Regeneration Manager said: “At Tai Tarian, we pride ourselves on being part of the community and with our major re-development of the County Flats site getting underway, we were keen to do something that would leave a lasting legacy for the people of Sandfields.

“Our partners, J.G. Hale Construction, shared this vision and were keen to get involved, working with the library and Adam John to create the mural as part of our community benefits programme.

“Libraries play an important part in communities, giving people access to all sorts of valuable resources and if the mural helps attract more visitors to the facility, then we will be pleased to have played a part in this.”

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Iconic Swansea mural company opens unique pop-up in centre of Swansea

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Swansea’s Fresh Creative Co, known for adding colour to Swansea through large-scale murals across the city, has opened its first city-centre pop-up gallery in the Quadrant Shopping Centre.

The business, which is passionate about making art accessible to all, will showcase the work of seven emerging, local artists across the two-storey space until June 29.

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The ground floor will include powerful art by Fresh Creative artists, Dave Long, Mr Plob, Munch, and Rosanna Pitman.

While the first floor will be dedicated to the Friends of Fresh Creative and will showcase dynamic photos of musicians, courtesy of Lloyd from Stay Focused Photography, as well as a striking installation from Helena at Miss Chievious Gladrags, known for her stand-out, colourful clothes.

Gemma Ellen will also exhibit her digital prints of beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations which are a modern twist of the Welsh love spoon.

Commenting on the exhibition is David Toft, Director of Fresh Creative: “We believe that creativity is fundamental to being human and opportunities to be creative should be available to everyone.

“This is why having an exhibition of our work in such an accessible city-centre location is important to us. The unit in the Quadrant was a blank canvas for us and we love that we have been able to really make it our own so shoppers can see exactly what we’re all about.

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“As well as Fresh Creative Ltd, we also run a not-for-profit company Fresh Creative Abertawe CIC. This is where we provide creative opportunities for children, young people, and members of marginalised and disadvantaged groups, through running a number of creative graffiti and spray can workshops.

“We also design and deliver art projects with schools and community organisations, which is something we plan to explore using the space in the Quadrant.”

Lisa Hartley, Quadrant Shopping Centre manager, said: “We’re in such a fantastic location at the Quadrant to reach out to the whole of Swansea. That’s why we’re the perfect place to host pop-up exhibitions like this to give our shoppers and city centre visitors a chance to experience something new. The Fresh Creative exhibition is truly an incredible display of the best of Swansea and the talent by local artists is second to none.”

Other well-known Fresh Creative projects include the striking mural on the side of Russel T Davies’ Mumbles home, and the beautifully painted utility boxes across the region.

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Schoolchildren create murals for Kingsway office development site

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Pupils from Pentrehafod Comprehensive School have visited the site of a new office development at the former Oceana nightclub on Swansea’s Kingsway to see new murals they have designed on the site hoardings.

The colourful murals were produced by Fresh Creative Co in a joint initiative between Bouygues UK – the council’s main contractor for the project – and the local community, through the Art In The City project.

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They were designed following discussions with a group of 60 young people as part of an engagement programme called ‘School Swap’, a regional project to explore cultural and social differences between young people across Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, and Bridgend.

The inspiration for the murals came directly from these workshops and the visit allowed the pupils to have their say on the final artwork, the location, and the possible impact of the art on the local community.

The new mural on Swansea’s Kingsway (Image: Swansea Council)

Located at the former Oceana nightclub site, 71/72 Kingsway will be operationally carbon zero and worth £32.6 million a year to Swansea’s economy.

Swansea Council, who are behind the development, say the office building will provide space for 600 jobs.

Due for completion in the summer of 2023, the scheme will include 114,000 square feet of commercial floor space with flexible co-working and office opportunities for businesses in sectors like tech, digital and the creative industries.

Other features of the new development include a roof terrace, a new link between The Kingsway and Oxford Street, and balconies overlooking the city centre and Swansea Bay.

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Bouygues UK’s Nick Toulson and Hadley Hands gave the pupils a site tour, allowing them a chance to see the construction in progress and look at the murals, which respond to issues the children feel strongly about like racism and hate crime, on the board hoardings.

Bouygues UK Social Value Advisor Nick said: “It was fantastic to welcome the Pentrehafod pupils to the Kingsway site. During the tour, we explained the process and the proposed use of the building as a communal office and agile working space.

“The children were eager to listen and learn and they were big fans of the murals that we have on the hoardings. We also discussed ideas for more artworks that tie in with Bouygues UK’s Diversity and Inclusion programme and we look forward to seeing more creations soon.”

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “The pupils thoroughly enjoyed the visit and loved the artwork, which form part of a construction scheme that will create space for 600 jobs and further boost Swansea’s economy, following on from our Copy Bay district that includes Swansea Arena.

“These artworks aim to celebrate diversity and encourage people to be respectful in our communities. It’s hoped that people will see these murals and feel connected to their local area as the messages promote peaceful and integrated communities.”

The 71/72 Kingsway scheme is being part-funded by the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal and supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Former Ospreys player and Paralympic athlete showcases his artwork in new exhibition

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Ospreys rugby player turned Paralympic discus thrower Harrison Walsh from Swansea is this month showcasing his talents away from the athletics stadium and in an art gallery.

London’s Zari Gallery is featuring The Art of the Athlete – an exhibition which runs from 9-27 May and is inspired by sport. Walsh – who is hoping to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer – is just one of the artists and he has submitted portraits of Kelly Holmes and Roger Bannister:

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Harrison Walsh

“My work is in pen and ink and I tend to sketch when I’m away at training camps. It’s a bit surreal to be part of an exhibition but I feel really honoured to be part of it.”

The exhibition will raise funds for The Ron Pickering Memorial Fund and the Lloyd Cowan Bursary which was set up by Olympic 400m Champion Christina Ohuruogu after the death of her legendary coach. Both causes raise funds for the next generation of athletic stars.

Walsh spent his youth climbing the Welsh rugby ranks. A professional rugby player for the Ospreys, the prop had played for Wales’ under 16s, 18s and had been selected for the under 20s. But his dreams were dashed in a career-ending injury at the age of 18 in 2015.

But since discovering athletics, Walsh has won bronze at the European Championships in the discus and holds the world record in the shot. And after just four years of training, he was selected for the Tokyo Paralympics

“My time in rugby was cut short so I didn’t achieve my success in but I feel it is bubbling now and that my time is coming.

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“I love throwing. Athletics has given me so much; it’s the best thing to ever happen to me. If I could ony say to that scared 18-year-old, you’ll find a real passion and you’ll be ok.”

Harrison’s work will be on display from 9-27 May 2022 at Zari Gallery, 73 Newman Street, London, W1T 3EJ.

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