When life gives you potholes, make Baywatch and pothole-pasta, Image Source: MTL Blog
Once upon a time, a certain idea widely prevailed of the artist as the isolated genius - the mercurial figure who was somehow set apart from the rest of society. That image, alas, was a leftover from the Romantic era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a time that has now passed.
Today, the greatest artists, far from detaching themselves from everyone around them, arguably do the direct opposite, plugging themselves into their local communities and making those communities better places to be, in more ways than one.
Confused? Here are a few examples of what we mean.
Filling in potholes…
Nobody really likes potholes. As inevitable a feature of urban life as they may be, many towns and cities around the world - especially in these economically straitened times for many countries - suffer from literally hundreds of thousands of potholes in their roads that go unfilled... until, at least, the local pothole artist comes along.
Consider the example of the wittily-named road artist, Wanksy. As his name might suggest, this Manchester artist solves the issue of errant potholes by... drawing outlines of penises around them. It may seem rather juvenile, and it's fair to say that local council officials aren't his biggest fans, but there are actually certain practical, community-oriented justifications for what he does.
“Pothole Penis” by Wanksy. Image Source: Bored Panda
Firstly, the act of drawing a penis around a pothole draws attention to this persistent urban problem, theoretically increasing the urgency of officials to fill the pothole. Secondly, the markings are visible enough to serve as warnings to approaching cars, and thirdly, they gradually wash away over time anyway, so they don't permanently spoil the environment even if officials take no action.
“People will drive over the same pothole and forget about it. Suddenly you draw something amusing around it, everyone sees it and it either gets reported or fixed.” – Wanksy, Source: Bored Panda
Painting pavement gum…
If you have ever walked down the average urban street - if you don't live on Mars, basically - you will be familiar with that perennial scourge of the pavement, the patch of flattened chewing gum. These unsightly white splats can be seen everywhere in the native UK of painter Ben Wilson.
Artist Ben Wilson. Image Source: Rolling Plinth
So, what does he do about it? He paints them, of course, turning them into beautiful pictures of everything from the Arsenal Football Club crest to a sailing ship. These tiny masterworks are sometimes created in just a few hours, in other instances two or three days - but regardless, the end results are impressive in their intricacy and beauty.
Chewing Gum Art by Ben Wilson, 2008. Image Source: The Telegraph
Technically, Wilson's works do not constitute criminal damage, given that they are on the gum rather than the pavement - although this didn't stop him being arrested on suspicion of such by City of London Police in 2009. Still, at the very least, Ben is serving his community by helping to brighten up what would otherwise be very dull journeys for many local commuters.
Never underestimate artists community spirit!
Everywhere you look, there are artists who - in their own often quirky ways - are having a positive impact on their local community. From filling in potholes with flowers or mosaics to recycling materials that would otherwise be left littering the streets and repurposing them for art, there are almost as many ways to benefit one's community through art as there are artists.
Glance around your town, and you may find a few of your own examples!
Elaine Santore fills a pothole in the middle of North Center Street, Schenectady, New York with pansies, 2015. Source: El Debate
Jim Bachor disguises himself as a maintenance worker and transforms Chicago's potholes into flower mosaics, 2014. Source: Daily Mail