When Brixton Art Prize’s 2022 competition comes to a close, the Awards Ceremony and exhibition will be held in the Department Store, a venue in the heart of the London village of Brixton. Brixton is the centre of cultural diversity and creativity. No area could be better to display work from a competition that values diversity and inclusion. We take a look at the different communities in Brixton and the way the village enables them to be creative.
Last year, Brixton opened up its Village Courtyard for International Women’s Day. The group, WOM Collective, took over and created a live, all-day mural painting. The collective’s ethos is all about female street artists and promoting this previously male dominated form of creativity. It is well known that women are left out of the art world. Therefore giving this opportunity to the collective not only enabled women to create, but gave them a safe space to do so. WOM Collective are an excellent group. They make art more accessible by bringing it to the streets and opening up the possibility for women to take part.
Murals and street art are incredibly important in Brixton. You can see incredible designs and works everywhere you go. Recently, the Brixton underpass, known to locals as a somewhat ‘grim’ place to walk, was given a revamp with colourful decoration and wall art. Brixton and its area is so well loved and cared about by locals that this new development made it onto a local news page, Brixton Buzz. There is a political element to Brixton street art, too. Young locals previously took to the walls to protest about renovations and economical plans to get rid of local businesses and the famous Brixton arches.
Political ideas work their way into art in Brixton often. The Empathy Museum ‘From Where I’m Standing’ project gave insight into different communities and workers. Looking at how they managed during the pandemic. The project took to the streets of Brixton to display photos that document people from all around the UK. A way of showing how Brixton has open doors and will represent all different types of people from different places. The Empathy Museum, however, is based in Brixton, just one of many creative projects in the area.
Little Portugal, Windrush Square & Black Cultural Archives
Diversity in the area goes beyond creativity. Around the corner in Stockwell is Little Portugal. Streets are full to the brim of Portuguese restaurants, bars and clubs. A home away from home with the feel of Lisbon (without the weather). In Brixton Central is Windrush Square. A section of London with a statue to commemorate and remember the African and Caribbean service personnel who served in the war, as well as the Jamaican population of Brixton. Similarly is the Black Cultural Archives, the only national heritage centre ‘dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain’.
Looking after its black community is important in Brixton. BLAM UK is a charity dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of its young black community members in Brixton and in other areas of London. They are an important group, aiming to ‘promote a positive dialogue of social identity and culture through history’. BLAM has set up The Grounded Project, in which members of the charity teach Black History to school children. Something which the curriculum has lacked for some time.
Local Workshops & Classes
Brixton cares about educating its young and providing creative opportunities to allow them to flourish. There are a multitude of workshops and classes available to residents of the London district. Brixton doesn’t forget its adult population, either. This month, The Factory Production House hosts free courses for low-income adults living in Lambeth. These are organised by two long standing Brixton arts organisations, Photofusion and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning. Brixton Life Drawing is a group which allows both online and in person life drawing classes. The classes enable anyone to develop their skills and explore their relationship towards art. Heart in Art workshops are members of the South London art scene who have led different creative projects since 2010, from community mosaics to children’s gardening clubs.
Brixton is enriched in diversity and the culture that comes with it. It is a place of creativity and welcoming, of proud identity and local character yet an openness to new ideas and possibility. The Brixton Art Prize will be an incredible opportunity to be a part of this mindset, allowing self expression in a free and non-judgemental manner and encouraging artists to show their work to the world.