An Aberdeen street art festival has left a “phenomenal legacy” that is free for anyone to access, use and enjoy, a lead organiser has claimed.
Business organisation Aberdeen Inspired worked with the team behind the annual Stavanger Nuart Festival, which originated in Norway in 2001, to establish the city’s first festival in 2017.
City councillor Ross Grant, who also works at the business organisation as a senior project manager, led the project to introduce the event which has gone some way to changing perceptions of the Granite City.
Ross said it was the positive response to smaller scale street art initiatives in the city which prompted his employer to investigate further. They started looking at various models in UK cities including Bristol and Sheffield, along with the US and Nuart Stavanger to bring a larger scale project to the north-east.
He said: “With Nuart Stavanger it was instantly something that just clicked.
“It had a huge onus on turning places into public spaces for people to enjoy, linger and visit.
“When we approached Martyn Reed, director and curator of Nuart, it was a general discussion.
“That general discussion happened over 18 months, maybe two years, back and forward, scoping one another out.
“It had to be the right fit for Martyn because he is approached by cities all over the world all the time. He doesn’t accept any and every offer or invitation he gets.”
The first year of the festival started out “smaller in scale”, with Ross claiming they were conscious of the people of Aberdeen being a “tough crowd to please”. He said: “There was a risk that we took this first year as we’d never approached building owners before.
“The reaction to year one was really beyond anything we could have imagined.
“We knew for sure that people would love it and businesses would love it and it would capture the imagination of the city.
“But we didn’t anticipate the bizarre buzz that was going on in the city at the time.
“We knew the phenomenal line up we had and that what they would produce would just blow people away.
“I think we learned a lot of lessons from year one, around not to underestimate the Aberdeen public.”
The festival sees artists from across the globe paint world-class artwork on the walls of buildings across the city centre.
Many of the locations were previously neglected and under-used, with the project helping to create vibrancy across the centre.
All the works have a “purpose and tell a message” and have created a legacy that is free for anyone to enjoy, Ross claims.
He added: “Year two and three was all about more challenging work and bigger pieces.
“The one on Union Plaza, I haven’t seen bigger in Scotland.
“What it has done is left the most phenomenal legacy. I don’t think there’s any BID anywhere, with partners, to have produced such a legacy.
“It’s not just our levy-paying businesses that benefit, which they do, but the public at large.
“Our mission is to create opportunities, increase visitor numbers and create vibrancy in the city centre for levy payers.
“But what Nuart has done, it has left something that is a legacy that is free for anyone to access, use and enjoy.
“I think that’s made the city centre much stronger and more inclusive space.
“It has turned quiet, under used areas in the city centre into the best places to visit.”
Union Row boasts three pieces of street art and Jopps Lane also has several works along its length.
Ross said: “The curator said these hotspots must be the most concentrated space for these works anywhere in the world bar Miami.”
Organisers of the festival said the timing of the festival was key, with the city still experiencing the effects of the oil downturn.
Mr Grant said: “The city needed it. That’s why the reaction was so phenomenal.
“It really has changed the perception of the city with not just the New York Times and all the other UK outlets that have reported positively on the city and the cultural vibrancy of the place, but for locals.
“There’s something really cool here. It’s just something edgy and has something places don’t.”
In terms of the future, there are “high expectations” for this year, with discussions ongoing on whether artworks could be created in other parts of the city.
Ross said: “We are running out of walls. It’s the last year of the current agreement we have with the council so we are looking at what happens post 2020.”