The Bilston Art Project secured £30,000 funding - part of a £1 million Towns Fund Accelerator Grant secured by the City of Wolverhampton’s Town Deal Board for improvements to Wolverhampton City Centre, Bilston and Wednesfield.
Ten graduates from the Wolverhampton School of Art were awarded a £1,000 commission each to create artwork about Bilston and to run local workshops in the community. Four other commissions were granted for local artists, including a mural artist.
The artwork – a street level exterior exhibition of 24 images and one large-scale mural - has been installed on Hall Street/the Orchard in Bilston. During the course of the project, which was launched in March this year, 11 workshops have interacted with over 200 people including schools, colleges and the local community, with events taking place online, in person, on location and even in local pubs.
Gavin Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University who has facilitated the project, said: “Bilston Art Project – which is ongoing - aims to capture, entertain and reimagine past, present and future stories of Bilston. We have commissioned local artists and graduates to create artworks about Bilston: its people, places and stories.
“It’s been amazing to see our graduates from a variety of degree courses including Visual Communications, Fine Art, Photography and Humanities as well as some of our University staff who are Black Country based artists in their own right, taking part in creating a unique street wall of art which gives us all snapshots of life and history in Bilston.
“Bilston is full of creative people and we hope to encourage creativity to flourish in the area.”
The artwork includes the work of Vik Chandla, an aspiring local street artist, along The Orchard – a 20-metre mural which features some of Bilston’s favourites; a symbolic and cultural layering of shapes from the past, present and future Bilston featuring canals, the Staffordshire Knot, metalworks marks, the market and orange chips.
Black Country based artists include Claire Buckerfield who has created an abstract work which elevates the often insignificant, and draws attention to a forgotten, unassuming building nearby. Tom Hicks has been photographing the post-industrial landscape of the local area and has composed these images into new artistic forms. Rachel Magdeburg has been reimagining a Victorian cast iron canopied drinking foundation that was once located in Hickman Park, Bilston.
Beyond those works, continuing along Hall Street is a showcase of artwork by local and regional artists who are all graduate alumni from the University of Wolverhampton. Greig Campbell, Sandra Cope, Laura Dicken, Jade Hamilton, Chanphiphat Janthra, Tamsin Rose Lunn, Ellie Tranter, Sharonjit Kaur Sutton & Iris Bertz, and Emily Williams. The commissioned artists, many of whom live in and around Bilston, have explored topics ranging from industry, family, identity, local people, food, workers, craft and conversation.
Tamsin said: “Throughout the Bilston art project, I’ve found new ways of working with the education community.
“It has been a lovely experience and opportunity to work with Ormiston SWB Academy with their Year 10 students and to be able to show not only Bilston, but a wider audience too, what Bilston heritage is and continues to be within its community.”
City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “The works being done through the accelerator funding are just the start of positive changes to come for the city centre, Bilston and Wednesfield.
“For this particular project, the area around Hall Street and The Orchard has been given an uplift through a project that will enable artists to showcase work, linked to Bilston’s history, on hoardings that will smarten up the area and support local residents in the growing creative industries sector.
“Further funding from the Towns Fund will help us deliver larger schemes that will support the development of the city centre and the two town centres.
“It provides opportunities and benefits for all our citizens across Wolverhampton, as this creative accelerator project has proved - and is important to relight the city after the impact of the pandemic.”
The Towns Fund Accelerator Grant is part of a government package of funding awarded last summer to 100 towns and cities that were also invited by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to bid for larger sums to support transformational regeneration schemes.
Wolverhampton has secured £25 million to help deliver schemes across the city centre, Bilston and Wednesfield.
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View a full gallery of the Bilston Art Project work at Bilston New Art | Flickr.