How do you make built-up areas more pleasant places to live in, work in and travel through?
The answer often lies in introducing nature or art into the space. Luckily for Sheffield, one of our graphic design degree alumni, Megan Russell, has been adding a colourful dose of both to the normally dreary hoardings opposite the Sheffield Interchange.
Here's what Megan (who goes by the street artist name Peachzz) and Iain Graner, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Arts told us about the inspiration behind the mural and the exciting ongoing partnership with the Sheffield Interchange.
What inspired the mural's design?
I had a really clear idea, actually. The focus of the brief from Hallam and the Interchange was 'Connectivity' - and one of the most important things for me as an artist is connecting people to nature. I like to bring people and nature back into concrete areas. The idea behind the mural design is about giving back to nature. It features two large hands crossing over to each other over the flowers. And the flowers themselves are two locally-significant ones - the woodland geranium, the original flower of Sheffield, and the white Yorkshire rose.
What feedback have you had as you've been making it?
I've had lovely feedback. People say it's nice to see something colourful in a normally dull spot. They say they love the fact that art is being put into the area. Occasionally, people worry about graffiti - but street art like this actually prevents graffiti as there's shared respect.
Art is for everyone - and art in public spaces is really important so I love to hear the feedback from passers-by.
What materials do you use?
I use a combination of masonry paint for the base, then use spray paints for most of the images, and then finally brushes for textures and details. I'd like to stop using spray at some point, for environmental reasons.
How did your course at Hallam help prepare you for your career?
I loved the course. It taught me how to put together proposals and collate my ideas - which has helped me a lot in getting work. I learnt how to put a really thorough portfolio together and it made my work look very professional and cohesive. Pitching for work was made easier too - so for me, being at university helped me to practise how to dissect and plan what I wanted to do - and to communicate this to clients.
What's next for you, Megan?
I'm very busy with work - am off to create a large mural in Walkley, Sheffield and a couple in Ireland soon, too. Then I'm going to Belgium for a street art festival.
Iain, how did this mural project with the Interchange come about?
We've been keen to be in dialogue with local groups and companies. We contacted the Interchange via our partnership with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority. The Interchange team felt the structure and area were dated, and it wasn't an appealing or a welcoming place. We said our students could help with that - they are brilliant creatives, and as the future of the city, it's wonderful for them to be investing in its future, working to change the look and feel of the area.
We've had fashion students, artworks on the windows and walls, and theatre productions brightening up the Interchange over recent months. We've even had our architecture students creating plans for potential re-designs of the Interchange - showing how the site could be part of a low carbon future.
We hope to develop our partnership further, as we're helping local people (students) to improve our local environment.
If you’re in Sheffield, you can find Megan's mural on Pond Street opposite the Interchange. She's also created another mural called 'Blue Lady' in the Interchange building itself. Keep your eyes peeled on the Interchange area for further students' work as part of this exciting ongoing partnership.
Megan's recent mural in Manchester was also featured in the Manchester Evening News.