City: COUVIN, BELGIUM
« One train can hide another »: In Couvin (Belgium) an old wagon in the train station was repainted with artistic tags during a whole weekend by the inhabitants.
- Holding organisation: Joint project between 3 local organizations: PCS (local cohesion plan), CEC le KRAAK (creativity and expression centre) and Cultural Centre Christian Colle
- Financing: PCS budget (D-Day coordination), in kind donations (paintings), Foundation subsidy
- People involved in the project: Joint-project team (2 coordinators from each structure), local artists collectives, CIAC(Youth Information and action centre) and all the participating inhabitants
- Public Partners: Infrabel (Belgian Railway Infrastructure manager), the City administration (public works service), Namur Province (Effet Papillon-Cultural support)
- Private partners: Chimay Wartoise Foundation, Sigma Service Centre Charleroi (paintings)
- Creation Date: 2010
- Contact Persons: Isabelle DURIAUX, PCS coordinator
- Main project links: http://www.couvin.be/ma-commune/services-communaux/lalteraction-pcs/anciens-projets
How to add value to an old wagon that belongs to the local landscape and involve citizens in the process? How to create a collective work of art within the city, invert ideas and use street tag art as identity frame?
The local context
Following the deindustrialization process, many European countries including Belgium (Wallonia) are trying to revamp remaining sites through cultural projects. In different neighbourhoods (usually in urban settings), art collective projects using the public space as a canvas can be an effective engaging community tool.
The starting point
Since 2007, local artists, the creativity and cultural centres have been trying to find a way to make a collective work of art within the city of Couvin. In 2008, in the frame of the local cohesion plan preparation, the PCS team and local artists decided to propose to paint giant frescos on city-owned buildings. As an old wagon was an emblematic view of Couvin-being in the middle of the train station- the idea came to paint the frescos on this worn wagon and transform it into a local piece of art. Infrabel –the owner of the wagon (which is still used as technical room) accepted the idea under a number of conditions (no marketing or reference to local actors/ administration etc.).
The Art project
A first meeting with local artists and cultural/youth centres was organized in September 2009 to prepare the collective work. The group decided to use the existing artistic community workshop (atelier communautaire artistique -a weekly local open artistic session organised by The Cultural Centre Christian Colle) to develop the project. Every Tuesday evening during 8 months, a group of inhabitants would come to work on the project: exchange graphic ideas, discover urban art, paint, get inspiration and visit tagging sites in Brussels or Charleroi. During Easter Holidays a specific training on canvas cover painting was organized to prepare the pictural framing of the Fresco. Some graphic paintings were picked-up and digitalized with the help of local graphic painters (Jean-Luc Urbain). The Festival Ars’Wagon (August 27-29) was the final 48h non-step in-situ painting workshop (open to anyone/ registration favoured). The coordination team provided a dormitory close to the station, all painting material (In Kind donation from a Charleroi painting Company) and space for any artistic animation ambition (music/ dance).
Participation and Governance
The Festival Ars’Wagon mixed all kinds of local crowd:
- Coordination team: 2 persons from each structure (PCS/ Cultural Centre Christian Colle/KRAK); artistic follow-up by artist jean-Luc Urbain
- Kramick and Urban Angel art collectives
- local youth and creativity centers (CIAC/Inforjeunes)
- local inhabitants: from young people coming back from parties to families
Added value of the project and making resources available
- Prove that regular inhabitants can be creators (usual heard phrase “I can’t do anything creative or artistic”);
- Develop a collective participatory artistic work
- Change the perception of tags (i.e urban art)
- Increase the value of urban environment and reuse existing old material
- Keep a project dynamic over time:
- the Couvin community art workshops no longer have a dedicated building;
- different artists left the territory;
- there is still uncertainty on the future of the wagon (it was supposed to be dismantled in 2012).
- There is no more rail staff at Couvin’s Station (the current terminus station of a local passengers train line). Discussions are being held to close the Couvin’s terminus; which would be a possibility to get the wagon for another purpose (create a youth dedicated place).
Other valuable projects
Urban art through patrimony rehab is used all over Europe as a community tool for cultural access and emancipation. Below are a few examples.
- Couleur Quartier Art Operation (Charleroi): co-creation of a 24m2 fresco in a peripherical area of Charleroi (la Docherie) Intermag article on cultural access
- Parckdesign (Brussels): an urban itinerary project made by European artists with inhabitants to create artistic dots in Brussels “Wastelands”.
- Permanent participatory work of art (Molenbeek): Sarendip -an urban artistic collective uses mosaiques to co-build artistic wonderland in a multicultural neighbourhood of Brussels.
- ”Local colours” Actions: Terre et Couleurs a French association organizes collective doors repainting actions in local villages by promoting the use of traditional paintings with natural pigments (ocre). The actions usually end with a large participatory banquet. Since 2006, they have organized 21 actions with more than 1000 participants.
- Micro production in urban development: 10 European projects
- Industrial wastelands and cultural rehabilitation: 11 European local projects
- Catalogue of urban street art
- European Network of cultural centres
- Trans Europe Halles: European Network of Independent Cultural Centres
- Culture Action Europe: The political platform for Art and Culture