A burst of colour, street art and an old Nissen Hut
Our Belfast team recently collaborated with a group of Belfast youths from the Prince’s Trust and two established street artists from Seedhead Arts known as DMC and EMIC. The aim of this collaborative project was to develop a creative response to our connection with the outdoors.
The group benefitted from a series of facilitated art sessions with Dermot McConaghy (DMC) and Eoin McGinn (EMIC), who taught them the skills required to deliver an art project of this scale. Artist Dermot, who signs his pieces DMC explained: 'What I like about this type of project is that we get to solve a problem visually. The process involves people coming together and having a discussion, and then turning their collective ideas into a concept. Developing that concept into a design for a wall is the end result; and everyone gets to nurture the idea until it becomes a finished piece.'
The workshops began with an informative and engaging presentation by the artists. They presented world famous examples of Street Art including Banksy, Space Invader and Shepard Fairey, alongside striking images of their own work across the city of Belfast and beyond. This led to in depth discussion with the youths who were more than willing to share their thoughts and opinions. They had been shown what was possible and it began to breed enthusiasm for the project.
We then launched into a collaborative drawing exercise encouraging the group to work as a team and forget about individual artistic ability. The result was a series of faces that everyone played a part in creating. This highlighted the importance of creative collaboration and idea sharing. This way of thinking would later be translated into the colourful project outcome on the side of the Nissen Hut.
A trip to the summit of Divis Mountain offered the group 360 degrees of inspiration. It was a clear day and so panoramic views of Northern Ireland and further afield to the windfarms of Scotland provided a positive response. Feelings of awe, amazement and curiosity were evident on the faces of the youths who had admitted they had never visited the summit before.
The mountain is topped by a mosaic of upland heath and blanket bog. The thin peat and acid soils support plants which specialise in surviving in this difficult habitat. An ongoing discussion about the mountains rich and varied archaeological landscape playing host to a wide range of wildlife, flora and fauna and the uses of the mountain throughout history became a catalyst for the success of the project. The youths were engaged and contributed ‘mountains’ of ideas with energy and enthusiasm.
Eventually, after much valuable and engaging conversation, the artists were confident that they had reached a creative conclusion with the youths. A colourful design was made to incorporate the words,
‘And into the mountains we delve, to lose our minds and find ourselves.’
This is a reimagining of words from the ‘Father of National Parks,’ John Muir. He was of Scottish origin and was a noted US naturalist, explorer, writer, and geologist. He was an environmentalist decades before anyone would really have recognised the description.
Painting on Divis and the Black Mountain
It was time to paint. On the side of the Nissen hut, Dermot and Eoin loosely sketched out the word Divis and began to demonstrate how to properly use spray paint. They then allowed the group to work as a team to colour the first part of the piece. As the word began to take shape the artist’s provided helpful tips to improve technique making sure everyone was able to participate.
At the end of the session, the word Divis stood out against the wall with vibrance in stark contrast to the white wall around it.
Over the following sessions, confidence and excitement grew as the piece began to take shape. The view of Divis and the Black Mountain taken from the east of the city was marked onto the wall. Everyone played a part in applying a range of brightly coloured paint creating a familiar scene that would become the backdrop for the words inspired by John Muir.
Before adding the text, the artist’s showed us how to fade paint to create a mist effect on the mountain tops. This helped add depth to the scene giving the piece a dynamic finish. DMC added the text in expert fashion bringing the work from concept to completion. Finishing touches were added and the Nissen Hut’s transformation from a bleak, white wall into a welcoming, colourful new feature in the car park was complete.
In the artist’s own words - DMC
“For this piece, we created a poetry inspired artwork based on a John Muir quote. The original quote reads,
‘And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.’
After a lot of design led discussion we crafted our own writing about Divis creating a connection between people and place. It reads,
‘And into the mountains we delve, to lose our minds and find ourselves… @ Divis.’
We painted the landscape in earthy tones and created four sections of alternative colour introducing four areas representing the seasons. A blue flower for Spring, a yellow sun representing Summer, a rustic leaf for Autumn and for Winter, a purple heather found on the mountain.
The piece flowed along the Nissen Hut wall leading to a huge colourful graffiti reading Divis with the V painted to resemble a love heart.
The group invested time, colour thought, skills and love into the piece which I feel positively promotes the importance of connecting the public with nature for a better quality of life.”
DMC – Dermot McConaghy
Words from our collaborators
Talking about the collaboration and the positive effects the opportunity has had on the group of young adults, Prince's Trust youth leader Jerome O'Loughlin said: 'It's a great opportunity for these two organisations to get together and work on a project that gives the young people from an urban space the opportunity to interact and take ownership of the rural environment.'
One of the group, Rachel, described her experience of being involved in the project; 'This was my first time at Divis and Black Mountain – we went to the summit for ideas for the art where the 360° view was inspirational. Street art was a new experience for me and I was apprehensive at first. However, I would definitely seek out opportunities to repeat this experience in the future. It has really helped change my pessimistic outlook on winter.'
The Divis Street Art project is inspired by our Peoples Landscape programme. The programme celebrates people's connection to landscape, unearthing hidden histories, passions and protests. This project captures those tales and emotions in artistic form, creating a visual community art piece that reflects the voice of the youth of Belfast today.
The art project was developed as part of the Prince's Trust 'Team Programme', a free 12-week personal development programme for 16-30 year old's based at Colin Glen Forest Park. The programme is designed to bring the best out of these young people, with personal and mental health workshops, outdoor activities, friendships, work placements and the opportunity to get involved in community projects, such as this one at Divis and the Black Mountain.
If you would like to know more about the artists, please visit:
EMIC - https://www.emicartist.com/
Or for more on local street art: