Guerrilla Galleries: Reclaiming Public Art Space in Cardiff

Guerrilla Galleries: Reclaiming Public Art Space in Cardiff

by guest blogger Lauren Mallin.

I hate to mention Covid-19, I know you must be as tired of coronavirus briefings as I am (next slide please) but its impact on the high street is apparent. Inevitably, some businesses were not able to survive the difficult trading circumstances meaning that some shop units in Cardiff are now vacant.

But out of the ashes of difficult times, come glimmers of hope and positivity, often seen in community spirit, ingenious thinking, and creativity – all of which sum up a unique new arts venture which has popped up in Cardiff over the past month, ‘Guerrilla Galleries‘.

This new city centre project is the brainchild of PALLET: an arts organisation comprising of Cardiff based curators, intent on providing informal and unique ways for the public to view artwork.

With crucial funding provided by FOR Cardiff and prime locations sourced in Cardiff’s historic arcades, through collaboration with City of Arcades, PALLET have been able to launch their pilot project Guerrilla Galleries in the heart of the city centre.

The project has turned a difficult situation into one that breathes positivity and life back into the city, transforming empty shop windows into thriving gallery space.

PALLET’s main aim is to amplify the creative community in Cardiff, particularly in the ‘post-pandemic’ climate, where opportunities and funding for the arts has become increasingly scarce.

The organisation are passionate about providing platforms for artists of all backgrounds and artistic expertise, and through the Guerrilla Galleries project, their work is being brought to a wide public audience.

The venture offers not only a unique opportunity to capture the mass footfall of Cardiff’s arcade visitors, but the potential to attract the attention of those who may not choose to seek out art in what is often deemed the ‘conventional’ way, in a museum or gallery for example.

Instead, Guerrilla Galleries brings art to the masses in a public space, creating a welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy.

This project is built on accessibility for all – both the artists and the viewers, in hope it may ignite some inspiration, passion, and pride in Cardiff’s creative talents.

Six local artists have been handpicked by PALLET to display their work in the arcade shop fronts, giving us a stellar line up of talent to discover:

Cerin James – Abstract artist James’s work is influenced by 1980’s pop culture. Bold and eccentric colour choices incorporated with minimalism make her work a must see for lovers of graphic design. (PALLET Location: 2-4 Morgan Arcade)

Tracey Leonard and Lucy Purrington – A postponed joint photography exhibition sees Leonard and Purrington join forces, now sharing a PALLET instead. Both photographers bring a unique style to explore the themes of isolation in the last year – Purrington through striking images of sculptural figures set against a South Wales backdrop, and Leonard’s documentary style photography capturing intimate moments of isolation. (PALLET Location: 2-4 Morgan Arcade)

MURF – Using imaginative characters created from reclaimed materials, this ingenious work by Corey explores the depths of our vast oceans through bold sculptural offerings. (PALLET Location: Castle Arcade)

Caitlin Flood-Molyneux – A contemporary take on abstract impressionism, Flood-Molyneux explores her surroundings through natural textures and graffiti style paintings. (PALLET Location: 20 Morgan Arcade)

Mike Paul – Paul’s striking black and white photography creates a series of images highlighting the beauty of Cardiff, expertly making the everyday look far from mundane. (PALLET Location: 26 Morgan Arcade)

Ultimately, you want to know why should you visit, right? Well, here are just a few reasons why I think visiting public art installations like Guerrilla Galleries are important, worth your time, and crucial to our community:

For a start, it is a fun and accessible way to engage with local art in the Cardiff community – many of us have rallied round our independent hospitality and retail outlets to see them pull through the pandemic, now it is time to show the same support to our artists.

Engaging with art is proven to be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. How many of us threw ourselves into an arty project over lockdown to seek solace from the less than appealing reality of Covid life? The arts are a vital resource in helping create and maintain a positive mental space, so taking even ten minutes out of your day to look at the work displayed in Guerrilla Galleries can allow for some much-needed rest bite from a challenging post-pandemic world.

This project presents an amazing opportunity to make an impact and help improve the art world in Cardiff. Community engagement is a powerful tool, and by taking an interest in local talents, and shouting loud and proud about them, the city stands to benefit from more opportunities becoming available. Take photos of the exhibits, share your thoughts online, follow the artists involved (each PALLET window contains the corresponding artist’s social media handles) – the more public attention projects like Guerrilla Galleries receive, the more likely they will be replicated in the future.

The installations are conveniently located in the city centre shopping arcades and are completely free to view. Popping out for a quick coffee or shopping trip? Why not make sure your day includes the arcades and stop for a minute to see what these artists have to offer. The arcades are also a stunning location to spend time in, any excuse for a trip through their historic corridors is a day well spent if you ask me.

My personal take away from visiting Guerrilla Galleries was an overwhelming sense of hope, sparked by seeing art begin to flow in the city once more and the transforming of difficult circumstances into new opportunities.

It was reassuring to feel that this is the start of something great for the city and our creatives; that we will continue to witness our local talents play an integral role in making Cardiff a front-running city for creating accessible and engaging creative spaces in the future. We just need to play our part in helping to nurture and support those talents.

So, while out enjoying the best of what Cardiff has to offer (because let’s face it, there is a lot), why not spare some time to take in the best of what the city’s artists have to offer too, and don’t forget to support, share, and champion our local talents.

PALLET’s Guerrilla Galleries are located in the Morgan and Castle Arcades and will be on display to the public until Thursday, 1st of July.

Info about the author: Lauren is an arts and culture blogger based in Cardiff and runs the blog and social media platforms called “That Museum Girl” (Instagram – @thatmuseumgirl_ and Blog That Museum Girl – Arts & Culture)

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