Some arts festivals are defined by their sheer scale, others by the magnitude of artists present, but probably no other in the world can boast bringing as eclectic a mix of artists, all with deeply idiosyncratic styles, together in such an interesting and overlooked environment like Scotland's oil capital of Aberdeen.
Working from the motto, 'Beauty is in the streets', the NuArt festival certainly highlights the wealth of meaning the word beauty contains, as the attending artists span from murals to miniatures, paint blocks to lego blocks, abstract and expressionistic.
Aberdeen has a reputation as a grey granite city, battered by the weather of the North Sea and home to a mixed demographic of the old school working-class and an emerging new class of young and wealthy offshore oil workers. Art is always far from the lips of people who are describing it to future visitors.
All it takes is a trip North to see that these impressions of the city, whilst true to a degree, seem to miss the mark. They touch on initial impressions, but not the lasting impressions the city imparts on its visitors and inhabitants. Aberdeen is a case of 'if you know, you know' and NuArt has tapped into that zeitgeist, yet also challenges it with an unexpected explosion of art that, while various in style, are all reflective and thoughtful musings appearing around the city.
Established in 2017 as an international showcase of interesting artistic talent, particularly in the broad realm of 'street art', NuArt goes beyond an art festival, becoming a giant collaboration between city and people, built environment and changing ideas. The creators say that:
"It intends to activate, inspire and collaborate with an emergent local scene as well as encourage creative links and exchanges between local businesses, arts organizations, property owners, community centers, education institutions and members of the public across all ages and backgrounds."
Aberdeen isn't London or Lisbon, at least not with arts, not yet. In terms of a burgeoning movement towards a creative renaissance in Scotland though, it must certainly be viewed as the spearhead for positive change.
The festival views art as something that should be alive, out in the streets, interacting and coalescing with the lives of people who share more in common with each other than they have differences. Their mission is to, "stimulate debate by challenging entrenched notions of what public art is, what it can be and who it is for."
They couldn't have picked a more traditional leaning country, nor an environment more resistant to change than the North of Scotland. Aiming high must be commended and, already, the festival has become a beacon for other cities in the country, and also many more, much further afield.
Featuring artists as diverse as Ben Eine, Axel Void, Dotmasters, Vhils, Ememem, Evol and Jan Vormann, plus many more, this edition is sure to grab yet more attention and do even more to make an impact in a city that is so often miscategorised as a bland city, of great grey rock. Aberdeen is leading the way. If you know, you know.
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