Has Dublin become at risk of losing its visual identity?

by Dublin Gazette
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The city was shaken earlier this year, after two beautiful murals were served enforcement orders for removal.

The murals, designed by creative entity Subset, were to be removed as they had not received planning permission.

In the wake of the news, petitions sprung up online demanding that the murals be allowed to remain in situ, displaying the love that Dubliners have for creative creations in the city.

Many popular Dublin-based artists, including Will St Leger and El Viz, have already left – or will be leaving – the city, due to the increasing lack of art and culture on the city’s streets, amongst other factors.

Dublin is also one of the only major capitals in the world that does not host an annual street art festival, despite the abundance of talent in the city.

With the closing of some of the city’s biggest cultural spaces, such as The Tivoli Theatre and The Bernard Shaw pub, spaces with the opportunity to create street art are also becoming ever rarer.

Dublin Gazette recently ran a poll with our readers, asking if they are in favour of creative street art within the city, and we received an overwhelmingly positive response.

More than 86% of our readers said that they believe street art has a place in Dublin, believing it brightens up the city centre.

Many have mentioned the popular ‘Dublin Canvas’ project as an example of street art that they love in the city.

The project has seen utility boxes across Dublin painted by street artists, allowing them to deliver their work on a smaller scale.

However, there are a number of obstacles in the way for our city’s street artists when it comes to creating larger murals.

Artists say these regulations can be limiting – something that can be viewed as being in opposition with the freedom of expression street art is supposed to help deliver.

Currently, under the Planning and Development Act, murals on buildings are seen as being “a development”, and as a result require planning permission.

Murals on hoardings do not require permission, as they are ‘temporary’ structures.

Following the removal of their two murals earlier this Summer, Subset were quoted in The Journal as saying that they believe the current process needs to be revised.

A representative for Subset told Dublin Gazette that in order for Dublin to become an international player in the street art scene, alongside the likes of Berlin and London, legislative changes need to be made.

They said: “[Subset would like to see] a change in legislation in which representatives of the artistic community are stakeholders. Planning permission is not a suitable system to govern large-format artwork.”

Their sentiments are echoed by other street artists in the capital, and members of the public, with many looking for further support to allow their creativity flow through the city’s streets – and across her walls.

The crux of the issue remains with Dublin City Council, which has the responsibility of enforcing the current regulations.

A council spokesperson told Dublin Gazette that DCC are actively engaging with street artists to try to find ways to continue developing the city’s street art scene.

They said: “DCC is required to balance the development of the city, and the guiding legislation which governs that, with the wishes of the public and the elected members.

“There are a number of complex issues relating to street art and the creative environment which pertains to the artists who create such work.

“The most obvious of these is the fact that the art is purposely created in the public realm, on public and private property, often creating a tension between the rights of artistic expression and those of property owners and residents.”

Previously, there have been ‘legal walls’ in the city where street art has been permitted, in addition to community art projects through the capital.

The DCC spokesperson said the council is working towards finding a solution that will ensure a happy medium for both street artists and the council.

They continued: “Given the complex nature of this issue, it is proposed to bring together with the Arts Office, relevant officials from local area offices, [the] public realm, [and the] Planning and Development department to consider the various issues relating to street art.

“It is also thought important to hear the voices of street artists, and in this respect it is proposed to create a forum where these can also be heard and learned from.

“Communication through the forum of process and guidance would benefit all operating in the arena.”

What the future holds for the street art scene in Dublin currently remains unclear, but one thing is for certain – Dubliners want to continue to see their city symbolised in bright, vivid artistry for decades to come.

To see what some of Dublin City’s councillors had to say, click here.

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