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UCA student to transform graffiti hotspot with creative Canterbury-inspired designs

One of our students is set to transform the entrance to Canterbury East Network Rail Footbridge – a notorious graffiti hotspot – with her community-inspired designs, after winning an open art competition.

MA Fine Art student Gloria Treseder fought off stiff competition from across the community to be awarded the opportunity to paint the footbridge. Her design, “Travellers Joy”, focuses on the four seasons and showcases the very best of Canterbury, from its native plants to world-famous literary characters that have been conceived in the city.

“This proposal is almost entirely site specific,” says Gloria. “Coming from the perspective of a nature-based educator as well as an artist, I first researched native plants. Clematis vitalba, called ‘Travelers Joy’ or ‘Old Man’s Beard,’ is not only native to Kent, but has itself traveled all over England. Each of the four abutments will depict this flowering vine larger than life, in four seasonal stages. The mural will connect to the place culturally by hiding a Canterbury-specific literary reference in each section.”

The competition was hosted by UCA Canterbury and held in partnership between the University, Network Rail, Canterbury City Council, Oaten Hill & South Canterbury Association (OHSCA) and Canterbury’s Club Chemistry. The brief was to create a design that would welcome visitors and generate a feeling of warmth and safety whilst giving a sense of pride for Canterbury.

On what she hopes her mural will achieve, Gloria says: “I hope the work inspires positive conversation about native plants. I hope it is friendly for children. I hope the elderly folks living nearby find it more than tolerable. I hope people have fun trying to figure out the literary references. Essentially, I hope walking along that bridge may be just one more possibility for delight and engagement in this amazing city, whether for a long-established local, a transitory student, or a nomadic traveler. I’m lucky to have the chance to attempt all of this. Hopefully it works!”

Submissions came from across the community before they were put to the judging panel which was chaired by Anthony Heywood, a senior lecturer at UCA. Members of the panel also included contemporary British artist Adam Chodkzo, the Sheriff of Canterbury Colin Spooner, Chair of OHSCA Dick Vane-Wright, local activist and campaigner Cathy Sales, and Club Chemistry’s Louise Jones-Roberts.

Gloria adds: “A thoughtful dynamic between art and the community is such a vital issue. Too often the setting and experience of the viewer becomes a secondary consideration, or even a misunderstood imposition. Even today, after many waves of boundary-pushing experimentation with art, place, and viewer, we still find much of it contained within intimidating secondary spaces like galleries and museums. In the public sphere artwork and arts events may not always be integrated into the local natural environment or relatable to the people who live and work in the community. If we’re not careful, we, as artists, risk alienating the very people who experience the work on a daily basis.”