If you head down to Union Street, in Plymouth, it doesn’t take long before you discover Union Corner, opposite the infamous Dance Academy. It’s far easier to spot now than ever before, thanks to a giant new colorful mural designed and installed by MA Drawing student William Luz (@plymouthart), in collaboration with Stephen Smith of Neasden Control Centre, and commissioned by Nudge Community Builders.
Inspired by the community spirit that Union Corner embodies, the mural stands at 13 metres high and features bold, bright and colourful figures, faces, symbols and shapes. Revealed to the public on July 15, the mural took around three weeks to complete, with the design completely hidden from view until the grand unveiling.
36-year-old Will is currently studying a MA Drawing at Plymouth College of Art, having successfully worked for a number of years as a commercial image maker for brands such as Facebook, Nike, Tate and the Southbank Centre, as well as being a co-founder of art collective Nous Vous.
Will has previously worked with Nudge on a temporary public art project for Plymouth Art Weekender 2020 named ‘A Pavilion For U.S.’, which was commissioned by Visual Arts Plymouth CIC and supported by Arts Council England and Creative Civic Change.
Will, who lives in Stoke, Plymouth said,
“Stephen and I are friends and mutually admire each other’s work, so we thought it’d be exciting to try and collaborate on something big. We approached Nudge suggesting that we were up for doing something like a mural together if an opportunity came up, and luckily for us, it did! They had already been thinking about commissioning a collection of murals along Union Street, and after working with them on my commission for Plymouth Art Weekender last year, they gave us the wall on Union Corner to work on.”
“The idea for the mural came from discussion between Stephen and I, Nudge and the people who volunteer at and use Union Corner. Topics came up about support, respect, helping each other out, community and togetherness, so Stephen and I wanted to reflect that but in an abstract way. For a few weeks, we sent ideas back and forth, putting things together and trying not to be too precious about the work until it felt like it started to have a more balanced composition. We then worked together to hone the individual elements and the composition as a whole, followed by selecting colours, which started with ones we wanted, but had to be changed slightly as only certain colours are available as masonry paint.”
“The feedback from the project has been really positive. I’m quite familiar with the area and met a lot of people through doing it, so it was nice to feel like I had more of a relationship with the area. I feel like I can appreciate the finished work now more than I usually would as it was a total collaboration. It doesn’t really feel like my work, which is a bonus!”
Will explains what brought him back to higher education,
“My family and I moved to Plymouth and while I wasn’t really planning on getting back into education, I used to teach on an MA in London, it felt like a good time to make a change and commit to my art making. The MA Drawing course looked perfect to me as the college really seems to embrace a multimedia and explorative approach, which really suits my way of working.”
Hannah Sloggett, co-founder of Nudge Community Builders said about the project:
“We got some money from the Local Trust called Creative Civic Change. It’s funding to support communities to make physical changes in an area. For us, when we were putting together our bid, people were saying they wanted more colour and joy in our streets. The wall’s been looking a bit gloomy for a while, so we knew we had to do something about it. We wanted something that felt really special, and that’s what the artists have done.”
William Luz (background) and Stephen Smith (foreground) Photo credit: Dom Moore
“The artists wanted to collaborate with the community as well as each other, so they spent time with people and groups that use Union Corner, finding out what is important to them and what they wanted to communicate. The artists also made blank versions of the wall so children and local people could have a go at designing what could go up there and they both used it as inspiration.”
“Everyone’s been so excited, it’s got a real burst of colour and it’s nice to have something really cheerful on that corner. You can see it all the way down the road, which is really cool. It’s so nice to see it up and see so many people responding positively to it.”