A project to permanently transform Sunderland city centre with vibrant new murals on Sunniside walls is underway and is calling on more local artists get involved.

Local creatives are being invited to express an interest in partaking in a plan to add colour and creativity to the city’s streets, after a number of organisations across the city came together to create stunning temporary installations during Sunniside’s busiest weekend.

Guerrilla street art outfit The Postman designed a number of temporary pieces, displayed throughout Sunderland city centre over the weekend, as part of an engagement process – led by Art of Protest Projects (AoPP) – to explore how art can reinvent the cityscape and change the way we interact with the spaces around us.

The plans – part of a project called Future Walls – were not announced in advance, meaning the pieces appeared overnight, to add a spark of colour to the city’s streets. Now the organisations behind the project, led by Sunderland Business Improvement District, are keen to engage the support of local artists to create permanent artwork on walls around Sunniside and the wider Sunderland area.

A number of temporary art installations were put in place to animate Sunniside, designed to draw the attention of local creatives and spark conversation about how the area wants to be visually and energetically elevated.  The delivery team has been conducting community engagement over the past six months to ensure Sunderland’s voice and vision are properly portrayed within the Future Walls programme and further work is underway to identify ways to directly involve homegrown creative talent in Sunniside and Sunderland.

Local artist Albert Bennett-Cowell said: “For me, Future Walls and the projects we’re doing with them are the first proper steps towards building a functioning arts scene in Sunderland and the North East. We have high-quality arts education here in the city but there’s almost no evidence of that, and the artists we produce leave this city because they feel there isn’t a scene here for them to enter.

“Putting up murals and artworks and engaging in programmes like Future Walls is the next step in this city reaching its full potential as a landmark of the North East and the UK.”

“I don’t want to just see big buildings going up and more jobs being produced, I also want to help make this city a beautiful and vibrant place to live and work, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Future Walls.”

Having visited Sunderland College, the University of Sunderland, several local schools, the National Glass Centre and several other local community groups, the delivery team have run spray paint workshops and engaged with local residents, allowing them to create their own masterpiece with a new medium of art.  Most recently, Future Walls set up workshops at SunLun Calling and Pride Festival to talk to the public about what they would like to see on the city’s walls and inspire residents about the ‘art of the possible’.  Over 200 people gave their written feedback and created their own spray-painted work of art.

Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID, said: “Sunniside is set to be transformed, with council led plans to regenerate it, as a community where the city’s talented artists can live, work and play.

“We were keen to spark discussion about art in Sunniside, to help people see the art of the possible, with temporary installations that show how transformational art can be. There has been such a good response from members of the public and people who visited the Sunniside events over the weekend, and we’re keen to explore how we develop permanent plans, working with local creatives, to ensure that we build on this.”

A number of city organisations have been working on the plans for some time and it is hoped that a number of walls can be reimagined, transforming the streets of Sunniside into an outdoor exhibition, where the buildings become canvasses.

Kicking off the project, giant depictions of Alice in Wonderland characters, including Alice herself, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit, now look out from Jopling House in Sunniside, celebrating Sunderland’s links to Lewis Carroll’s magical adventures and unveiling the first ever AI generated street art.

The programme – Future Walls – will run over the coming months adding pops of colour and creative design to the streetscape in this historic part of the city centre.  Buildings have been earmarked for a range of projects that are already underway, and engagement with the community, including local creatives, is already underway allowing people to influence and directly contribute to the look and feel of their urban surroundings.  A Future Talent development programme has recruited over ten local creatives, with more spaces available to anyone who wants to contribute, giving them the opportunity to help splash their own art onto the walls, as well as to support the other street artists who will be involved in the programme.

Jeff Clark, director of Art of Protest Projects, said “It’s been an absolute privilege and honour to get to know the people, the culture, the identity of Sunderland. The warm welcome we’ve had from the local community has absolutely blown us away.

“Getting to work with so many partners to shape and form this project feels like it’s been done the right way, with the people of Sunderland prioritised above all else. We want to create a springboard for locals to jump from, helping increase artists’ visibility and create a visually engaging and imaginative urban backdrop for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”

The project will complement a council-led regeneration strategy for Sunniside, that will see the area established as a creative hub, with exciting new developments including the creation of a cluster of studio homes for creatives and artists.

Six large temporary murals of pop icons were scattered around the Sunniside Quarter, including Pink, Bob Marley and Tina Turner, as well as 20 spray can shaped pieces of art, hidden around the streets of Sunniside, which feature iconic film stars.

Artists interested in being part of this should contact Jeff Clark at info.futurewalls@gmail.com