From David Bowie to Dave the rapper, undeniable talent has been spat out of the melting pot that is Brixton. The streets scream of colour, murals and mosaics at every turn. With airy artist studios peppering the top floors of shops across Brixton Road. The din never quietens, and we don’t mind.
Brixton Artist Collective
The Brixton Art Gallery operated from under the famous railway arches from 1983 through to 1988. Diligently ran by volunteers from the renowned Brixton Artist Collective, it was a place that truly represented the mixture of culture that Brixton still is today. With over 200 members, the Collective had clear policies on equality. They stood to provide opportunity to the community’s most marginalised. Brixton in particular has been through a lot – there’s been political unrest and (more recently) rapid change and fear of separation within the community. Uplifting one another and the importance of coming together became the flavour of Brixton’s art scene. Still remaining today, you only have to stumble across one of Brixton’s many loud and proud murals to notice so.
One member of the collective, Kumiko Shimizu, is an artist and now an Urban Designer. She focuses on ‘Man’s dwelling in the urban environment’, a topic very fitting for the hustle and bustle of Brixton. In 1985, she created a performance piece, paired with an installation, called ‘Roadworks at Brixton’. The artwork plays with interaction, working with found objects and snippets of conversation as she made her way through Brixton. Everyday she would update the installation with new material, creating a journey that was a direct expression of the streets. Brixton itself has been on a similar journey of building, adding, accumulating – everyday, something new, but the eclecticism always remains.
Brixton Art Prize
Brixton Art Prize is a new competition for artists with the aim to bring together the community and celebrate Brixton’s artistic history. Just as Shimizu did with ‘Roadworks at Brixton’, Brixton Art Prize is an interaction between artist and community. Her journey celebrated the community, and Brixton Art Prize’s journey strives to do the same.
Asking participants to explore themes of conflict and integration, it’s important that we recognise the dissonance that Brixton has experienced. It’s even more important, however, to come together in spite of it. Ensuring that change happens with the community, and not to the community, is the top priority for everybody at Brixton Art Prize. Alongside the offering of cash prizes, and both solo and group exhibitions, a portion of the prize money will also be donated to charities, feeding directly back into community spaces, projects, workshops. Art in Brixton, and the opportunity for self-expression has always been a vital mode of support to the community. This is no different.
When making my own journey around Brixton, I take in the various murals dotted around – Marvin Gaye, Michelle Obama, and most recently a celebration for International Women’s Day. The murals are imposing and beautiful, interrupting the public realm to demand thought and discussion. They exist as powerful representations of togetherness as everyday life carries on around them. If anybody were to take anything from Brixton along with them on their own journey, it would be this.