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24 September 2014

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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002 10:39
Got something to spray
Corbin Adler and Michael Flibb at the Common
tiny Two Southampton graphic designers are out to re-write people's opinions of graffiti. With bright, bold and exciting designs, the Beyond Graffiti project is aiming to offer kids an artistic alternative to graffiti vandalism. BBC Southampton's Stephen Stafford met up with them...
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Beyond Graffiti
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tiny Michael Flibb and Corbin Adler are dedicated to one little word: "art". The two are passionate about providing an alternative to vandalism for kids with creative talent and giving Southampton some fresh splashes of colour at the same time.

The pair, who now run their own graphic design business, have known each other since they were 12 and went to Bitterne Park Secondary School together.

They were approached by the City Council to spruce up the paddling pool kiosk on Southampton Common. But the pair didn't just grab their spray cans and go for it - artistic graffiti needs planning.

Paddling pool
Southampton Common paddling pool
Corbin explained: "It was vandalised and looked a mess so we set up a workshop to involve youngsters as to how the building should look. We sent out worksheets and questionnaires and the response we got was absolutely amazing.

We developed sketches, 3-D computer designs and eventually painted the building with bold colourful designs. We were expecting people to turn up their noses but a lot of the pensioners and dog walkers around the Common who have nothing to do with the graff scene whatsoever came up and said, 'this is beautiful' and 'this is fantastic.'

The positive feedback to the abstract parklife designs at the paddling pool prompted them to devote their spare time to setting up 'Beyond Graffiti' (BG) - a voluntary project involving the
Colourful designs
Colourful designs
'Wet Paint' collective of graffiti 'writers', their own MD-VS design company and Southampton Youth Service to give young writers an outlet for their creative talent that didn't involved vandalising public areas.

"We're really passionate about it, we've got the know-how and the resources to make it work - we wanted to do something positive ... it's scary what we've achieved in a month and a half - we're basically doing two full-time jobs - it's nuts!"

Michael and Corbin are well aware that graffiti has a bad name - especially when housing estates and subways are sprayed with 'tagging' - the unsightly graffiti 'signatures' that appear. But they are aware of being seen as too establishment which would alienate the writers, who by definition, are part of the underground scene.

"We're not on the side of the council, we're not on the side of the writers, we're on the side of both of them," explained Michael,

Michael at work
Michael at work
"The vandalism side of it is messy, it's part of my history...but I do believe a lot of time is wasted doing that stuff when we could be creative and doing it as a recognised art form ... you'll never get rid of the vandalism problem, there's always going to be system breakers. I was part of that but I've realised my way of broadcasting is maybe to organise this sort of creative project."

"There are writers out there that have definite talent and what we are doing is to give them somewhere to spray legitimately without the criminal side of things, so that can really develop their skills and ideas and composition. So when they have the time and opportunity to design and spray something, it'll be really really good.

Their plan is to set up 'urban galleries', where young people can design and spray their ideas, and brighten up urban areas for the local community at the same time.

"There is a myriad of ideas - each piece of work is a personal issue for each artist - conveying their frustrations and what's going on in their heads - it could be a sign of peace, an environmental or social message...that's what BG aims to do, show the difference between vandalism and art and give them the opportunity to convey their feelings through this amazingly energetic and colourful art form - there is no other art form like it," enthuses Michael.

Un-kanned convention
The Un-Kanned Convention in August
As a next step, the have organised a two-day Graffiti convention last month. Artists from around the country were invited and local writers will also had the opportunity to spray on boards and designated walls in five hour sessions. - accompanied by live music, DJ sets and ive MC-ing.

Read the news report about the Un-Kanned Convention.

Beyond Graffiti is also about making it clear that graffiti is an art form that can appeal to the wider population - as it is in parts of Europe where large public graffiti art is commonplace.

Corbin explains: "Because graffiti is ultimately illegal, it is hidden away, so when people walk through subways with abusive or mindless tagging, they get get offended and scared. We can make the audience develop an understanding of what it can communicate - by painting colours, places and shapes that can appeal to more people. Our work on the Common shows there is room for graffiti to be socially accepted by everyone from toddlers to pensioners. And rather than doing it quickly incase they get caught, we can teach the writers the skills to do something absolutely amazing and at the same time brighten up Southampton."

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