Tell Them To Look Up - Nuart Aberdeen

Hush at work on the John Lewis building.

I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she’d say if her story had an audience. She smiles. “Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars.”” - TWLOHA 

I don't know about you, but there are days when I find myself better acquainted with my shoes and my phone than with the streets and the people around me. 

I have social anxiety and it makes me behave like a toddler playing hide-and-seek. I walk with my head down, eyes averted, child-like logic hoping that if I hide my face and look away, no one will ever notice me.  

If it isn't social anxiety to blame, it's social media - technology making us the most connected we've ever been, yet the most disconnected from the world that we could be. How many times have you been bumped into by a screen-seduced stranger in the city, so engrossed by the faces on their phone that they failed to notice the one coming towards them in the street? In this day and age, the vast majority of us are probably guilty - trapped in the trance of technology, disengaged and missing out on the moments happening here and now, beyond the screen. It's certainly been true all too often for me.

Helen Bur on Gallowgate
Dotmasters at work on the old E and M building
But then.. along came Nuart to change the way I engage with the space around me.

An annual festival of street art, Nuart is now in its third year in Aberdeen, bringing artists from across the globe to share their talents and brighten up our granite-grey streets. 

This year's event took place in April and saw artists from as far and wide as Norway, France and the United States bringing their work to Aberdeen, alongside a programme of events featuring speakers, workshops, the return of the Inspired Nights street food market, and a host of walking tours around the city. 

Axel Void on John Street
Carrie Reichardt's 2018 piece, relocated to Marischal Square

I was lucky enough to join a bit of a preview tour, prior to all of the works being complete. Led by the lovely Autumn - a volunteer member of the Nuart team - our tour took in both early completions and some works-in-progress, as well as one or two pieces from previous years. Autumn treated us to some lovely stories from behind the scenes, some fascinating insights into the artists and their work, and a barrel load of enthusiasm for Aberdeen and all the good that goes on in this city. 

Jan Vormann on The Green

As interesting as it was to learn more about the production of these large-scale Nuart masterpieces (the skill in creating something on that scale is phenomenal!), it was Autumn's enthusiasm for the little details that most inspired me.  

Walking through the centre of town, small, almost-hidden works of art were pointed out to us at every opportunity: recognisable tags; mosaic tiles; a character series; tiny men on high-up ledges; stickers on lamp-posts; poetry; secret packages to be taken home for free. 

It felt like having my eyes opened to a whole new layer of this city. There was so much there, right under my nose and yet completely unseen!

Dotmasters on Jopp's Lane

The best thing is.. that lesson has well and truly stuck with me.

Since that walking tour, I find myself engaging entirely differently with this city. Perhaps not every day (some days it's still tough to get out of my own brain), but more and more often I find myself walking with my head up, eyes wide, taking note of what's really there around me. I find myself noticing things I've probably passed a hundred times before and never fully seen. I find myself with my phone out, not to hide and ignore the world around me, but to capture and share some tiny detail that's jumped out at me. I find myself laughing at tongue-in-cheek posters; moved by the words of a stranger's poetry; challenged by the message in a painted piece - all as I go about my ordinary day in this not-so-grey city.

Mostly, I find myself with a renewed sense of admiration for Aberdeen, its people and their quiet creativity, and I hope that feeling of wonder and engagement will long stay with me.

Ben Eine in The Tunnels

Smug on The Green


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