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Diary of a Public Artist: Tib Street Mural



Wow what a day, what a few days. For the past two days I had been painting a mural for Black History Month. The mural was a tribute to inspiring Black women, namely black female entrepreneurs. It featured a characterisation of Madame CJ Walker. Madame CJ Walker (1867 - 1919) was a social activist and self-made millionaire who made her fortune developing hair care products for black women. The piece was painted on one of the Outhouse Project sites on Tib Street in Manchesters Northern Quarter. It had been an amazing time, which for the most part had felt like live-painting at a festival. The weather was bright and surprisingly warm and the atmosphere on Tib Street was electric. I have always loved the Northern Quarter and also the Outhouse Project so it was amazing to get to install a mural there.


So here we are; The day after the two days before…


Today I woke up and my body ached; Hands, ankles, palms, shoulders all aching. I had come to realise over these past years of installing public art that the demands on your body were very real and that when installing public art you had to prepare both creatively and physically. At this stage, however, I had begun to view the aches as a badge of honour for a job well done, well either that or a sign that I needed to do more pilates.


I had stayed up late after completing the mural. I cooked something tasty and hung out with Turbo, my wonderfully hyperactive Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I figured that it was okay to stay up as late as did because I had planned that the following day would be an ‘in-day’; A time where I focus on resting, updating social media and planning for future projects. There were also plans in my diary to meet with Kaz, Kaz is a presenter / producer from BBC Radio North, she was due to interview me about the 38m high Suffragette mural I was creating for Bruntwoods Trafford House.


After spending some extra time in the comfort of my bed I reached over to check my phone, Kaz had messaged me, it was 8:05. She was wanting to know if I had started the Trafford House mural. I explained that I was still waiting for the project team to get back to me with the schedule. I then went on to tell her, that although the Bruntwood mural had not yet been installed that I had just finished another one on Tib Street. I explained that the mural was a homage to Madam CJ Walker and that I had painted it for Black History Month. Kaz was excited about this. A succession of messages followed. It transpired that Kaz knows Madame CJ Walkers Great Granddaughter and wanted to meet to take some photos of the mural and to interview me about that also.


I got up and started to get ready. I wanted to wear something that would compliment the mural in the picture. I opted for my Irish green vintage, swing coat-dress. The green would work well with the golden yellow and black of the mural and would in fact make the whole composition an embodiment of the Jamaican flag. This thought amused me. I ironed my dress and got ready to head into town.


As I hot stepped across Picadilly gardens, I felt great in my green dress, I love this dress and haven't worn it for ages. As I was walking back to the mural, the notifications on my phone kept buzzing. At one point it was an Twitter alert telling me that musician Chip Greene had tagged me in a post. Chips post was a picture of me with the caption “My new friend Venessa Scott, painting a mural in Manchester” Chip is a musician from Nashville who was over in Manchester for a few days to perform at a festival. Chip had stopped by as I was painting the mural and we got talking about music, art, and Manchester culture. He is a cool guy.


I continued toward Tib Street. As I arrived I saw a photographer crouched down in front of the mural, big telescopic lens in hand and pointing it at my painting. I felt exposed, I was like, ‘eeeek' I hope it looks okay that close up. Thankfully it did. Kaz was also there. I smiled and waved, she smiled and waved back.


As Kaz and I spoke she started to tell me more about Madam CJ Walkers Great Grand daughter, her name is A’Leiya Bundles and she is an author. She then went on to say that she would love my mural and that she would be sending her some pictures. My jaw dropped. I could not believe my ears, this was totally unexpected and was incredibly exciting.

As Kaz and I walked down Thomas Street we decided to stop at Teacup to get a warm drink and conduct the interview. We chatted for a while before Kaz got out her recorder and Sure mic from her handbag. Her earphones were tangled. She was struggling to set them free from themselves. I offered to help as I like untangling wires. As I was freeing the earphones from their tangled state Kaz began recording. She asked me about the mural I had just painted and also about the Trafford House piece, honouring Sylvia Pankhurst and votes for women. Then interview was complete. We finished our drinks and headed off. Kaz had ordered a lemon and ginger tea and I ordered a hot lemon water. Both drinks came in their own little teapots and a cute metal ramekin of honey; delicious.


As we walked back up Thomas Street I hugged Kaz goodbye and headed to the Craft & Design centre before heading back towards Picadilly gardens. I made a quick pitt stop at Magma to look at the new art books and at Cass Art to check out their event notice board. On my way through Picadilly Gardens I decided to take a stroll down to Manchester Art Gallery and it was there I had a surprising encounter.


...To be continued


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