Image Credit : Tim Caraco
What sparked the inspiration for the First Coat Project?
I'm 1/3 of Kontraband Studios; a graffiti art supplies store, screen-printing/sign-writing studio & gallery. Everything we do has roots in graffiti and street art culture. It's a huge passion of ours. First Coatdidn't come out of no where. Through Kontraband, we've lined up a few public walls over the past 12months as well as being involved in projects like Animating Spaces which saw 4 well known out of town artists (Phibs, Numskull, Gimiks Born & Beastman) alongside local artist, Twolaks paint a huge wall in our CBD. As for inspiration to make it happen, beyond our own passion, Toowoomba Regional Council the driving force behind getting the project off the ground.
How have you found the differences between painting in a large city like Brisbane & a more regional location like Toowoomba?
I'm an amateur with aerosol so I can't really speak too in depth about that. I know at the moment, under the current Newman government, painting is getting increasingly difficult. Illegal and legal spots are being buffed. I think, even though it would be fair to say Toowoomba is behind the times and generally more traditional in it's way of thinking, it's also pretty supportive and interested in change. The community response from previous projects was awesome, which is why we saw potential for more. That said, we just didn't anticipate it to be on the scale that was First Coat.
How have you found the Toowoomba community response to the festival?
98% extremely positive. There were a few uneducated comments about taxpayers money being spent on the project. I think if people understood the budget we worked with in comparison to the excessive dollars spent of continuously buffing these spaces, they may have a different understanding. The walls we sourced to be involved in the project have a history of vandalism. We intentionally targeted them to encourage respect of public spaces and in return, a respect of graffiti and street art as legitimate art forms.
In what ways have you seen the street art created as part of First Coat impact the atmosphere of the city?
Mainly, as I mentioned about the nature in which the walls were selected, these areas are completely transformed. What had been dingy, badly tagged back alleys, are now filled with colourful, creative energy. There was a buzz in Toowoomba over the First Coat weekend and I think it's still here. Projects like this have huge potential to reshape our community.
Do you think there is a growing national / international favour being shown towards street art?
Oh definitely. Even in the last 12months, Australia alone has hosted serval small and large scale street art projects. Wonder walls, Hit the Bricks, First Coat, Re.Discover - these are all new projects with plans to host more, if not annually. I think this is a good sign of what's to come.
With such an incredible line up of artists represented, it must be hard each year to select the final artists. What is the process of making this decision?
We approached artists we were interested in working with. I tried to find a balance with figurative and text based artists for the reason that it was our first one. I'm not sure if Toowoomba would be ready for an all graff festival!
Which artists are inspiring you guys at the moment?
Up and coming: SHIDA (Mel) - we had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the A/D artist talks which wrapped up the FC weekend. Huge respect for how he works at his practice and how honestly he speaks about the illegal/legal, egos and other elements of what involved in the craft. I dropped him at his wall first thing every morning and picked him up late every afternoon. He was by himself (pretty much) for 2 and half days straight and worked like a dog the entire time. He was on some kind of spiritual journey when he was at that wall and it comes through in his work. Extremely dedicated guy, I'd really love to see him keep pushing it.
I was also really impressed with the local artists in the mix over the FC weekend. One in particular, Alice Weinthal - she tackled a huge wall and nailed it. Having only worked with aerosol a few times and predominately a fine artist, she killed it.
Any plans for next years festival that you can leak?
Nothing solid, we're still giving it time to breathe at this stage and working out how we can build on this year's event. I guess we'll have to step it up with more artists and more walls next year! We invited Rone to town for this year's event, but with his solo exhibition coming up in London, he wasn't able to take time away. I haven't spoken with him since but maybe this is a good place to put him on the spot?
Where can be find out more about First Coat?