Interview: Founder of Lewisham School of Muralism and Artmongers Director Patricio Forrester
We caught up with muralist in chief Patricio Forrester to talk about the incredible work of Artmongers, London School of Muralism and the latest work with charity 999 Club.
Tell us about your latest work with 999 Club and London School of Muralism. What can we expect and why is the work important?
We created a new mural to celebrate their 30 anniversary doing great work for homeless people. We run 3 workshops with their service users and together we came up with the ingredients of our final piece. It is important because public spaces need to be diversified with alternative narratives arising from marginalised groups in our streets. Here is what the plaque says:
This mural was painted by The Lewisham School of Muralism in celebration of the 30th anniversary of The 999 Club in Deptford. Students from LSOM and service users from 999 Club came together
during three participatory creative workshops to work on the design and concept of the mural.
The aim of the mural was to give a tribute to the 30 years of support and compassion carefully
woven together by the club having created a safe and positive community space for people with
lived experience of homelessness in the borough of Lewisham.
The jumper illustrates open doors, close doors and ajar doors, leading into different states of
mind as well as welcoming joyful words, made of memories and stories formed over the years
at the 999 Club.
As Deptford (Lewisham) locals we love your work to cheer up our borough and beyond. Tell us about Artmongers and how it started and what your mission is.
Thanks! I started Artmongers in 2003 and was created to support our interest in developing artworks that involved others in the creation of public facing murals. Our mission has been to improve our shared spaces engaging the public with humour, color and riddles. We focus on spaces that are in need of something different, something surprising or intriguing.
Initially, we set about creating work across a three-square mile area in South East London. We wanted residents and people passing through to slowly become familiar with our work and values. Over time, conversations with local people and organisations have evolved and we’ve developed these relationships, working towards shared goals.
In 2013 we began to take our work and processes abroad. Today, we’ve worked in the most diverse contexts, from refugee camps in the Middle East, to clinical environments, working with experts, patients and families to physically alter the space to support the needs of the people using it.
How do you spot an Artmongers piece?
Our work is responsive, as well as site and group specific. We’ve used various art forms to improve the environment and encourage participation, such as large scale photography, digitally printed murals, installations and interventions, guerilla gardening and street performances.
However, we are best known for our public murals. The defining feature of our work will be the involvement of people who live locally to the artwork, but who are not necessarily familiar with art and art-making for shared public spaces.
Who or what is your inspiration for helping to make community artworks?
It was a gradual process, like most things. We got interested in interfering on people’s daily lives with art on the streets and then realised that asking what others wanted was going to be a more interesting and sustainble. We never paint what people ask us to paint, we imagine what they didn’t know they wanted first and then we paint that. This is our job as artists.
What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their local area with arts?
Go for it, it can be really rewarding but make sure you always make art that you are interested in, engaging others in the creative process is always a struggle but if you manage to create something that you, participants and the majority of the public are excited about, it can be a very powerful tool as it released lots of new energy.
What are your favourite London haunts? (To explore, to eat, to get arty)
Nunhead Cemetery to explore the good mix of wilderness and time warps, Hullabaloo in Deptford for great vegetarian Indian food. I love the river Thames anywhere I find it, especially cycling from Greenwich to the Millenium Dome.