1 Step Back… 2 Steps Forward – Winning at the BASA Awards 2017

CLIENT: FLANAGAN & GERARD: SPRINGS MALL ARTWORK PROJECT
WRITTEN BY MARIAPAOLA MCGURK, MANAGING DIRECTOR

Nearly 20 years ago I left the small town of Springs determined never to return (very tricky as my parents still live there!). I complained about the lack of art, the lack of opportunity and the lack of creativity. Who would have thought that this incredible award would come from a project inspired by and implemented in that small town!

Growing up in Springs I experienced a love /hate relationship with the town. I loved my family and my friends, but I hated the complacency, the boredom and the lack of creativity that seemed to dominate most people’s existence – I wanted more! I wanted to meet movers and shakers, people who were pushing the boundaries and daring to take risk. I didn’t want to have another braai, another drink or another dreary conversation! I believed this small town had nothing to offer a creative person – instead, that it inhibited growth and stumped dreams. So I left. I moved to the big city and mocked the small town I came from. I insulted Springs on social media, I told my parents over and over again to move out! I questioned why anyone would choose to stay there.

Yet it was in this small ‘backwards’ town where I received my first opportunity to have a solo exhibition in 2005. It was in this town that the local newspaper – The Advertiser – came and wrote an article on my art and my exhibition. The curator of Springs Art Gallery, Thabo Sekoaila, supported me, guided me and offered me warmth and conversation – something no gallery in Johannesburg had done for me. It was in Springs that at the age of 15 I realised I loved visual arts and started extra art classes. It was in this town that The Coloured Cube won its first major award in the BASA Awards 2017!

In 2016 I was contacted to propose artworks for the new development of a mall in Springs. We brainstormed internally and offered the client 3 options:

1. Photography highlighting the art deco buildings.
2. Artworks made internally by myself using my technique of paper cutting.
3. Artworks made by Ekurhuleni artists highlighting the talent of the municipality.

The client chose to go with all three options and the open call to artists and photographers was publicised.

There was one rule: You had to either be an artist from Ekurhuleni or the work had to be inspired by Ekurhuleni. We had hundreds of submissions and the top 55 works were chosen. A body of works highlighting the talent, people and places of Springs/Ekurhuleni is now on permanent display through corridors and offices of the Springs Mall.

The talented artists and photographers that are part of this collection include: Anelia Zimkhitha Mliswa, Babalwa Dhlamini, Katlego Modiri, Mpho Makhubo, Quaymberley Dudley, Sabelo Mabuza, Sean Mokhethi, Sizwe, Sibisi, Victor Mkhungo, Nico Phooko, Tlotlo Lobelo, Gail Scott Wilson, Mark Straw, East Rand Art Sharp Visual Art, Mbodlo Mbodlo, Nkosinathi Khumalo, Puleng Radebe, Siboniso Mbcube, Charne van der Merwe, Lethabo Motzeleng, Sicka, Apollo Heynes, Esau Dlamini, Nikita Mahlati, Potsiso Phasha and Mariapaola McGurk.

This project has the potential to be implemented with property developments throughout South Africa – acknowledging the context of the development and supporting the arts – not through sponsorship but rather through payment of services/products, where all parties benefit from the outcome. This project continues to shine a positive light on the Springs Mall and its pr, the mall now has a permanent collection that may gain in value over time and it benefited artists from the area. The arts offer something that nothing else can – they offer the human element – the connection to the people. It must be real. It must be sincere and it must be paid for! Gone are the days where artists must beg for cents and it is through forward thinking clients like Flanagan & Gerard, The D’Arrigos, MDS Architects and Marketing Concepts that this is evident. Clients who see the value of the arts and the value of paying for the arts.

20 years on and my childish views of my home town have been challenged!
It was in Springs that the boundaries were pushed, where movers and shakers were willing to take risks, where an opportunity was opened for the creative sector and dreams came true.

1 step back certainly has led to 2 steps forward!

To see the artwork installed in Springs Mall click here.

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