Some of York’s key worker heroes are now writ large across the city thanks to a dazzling new street art project.
Altogether 11 people – including a doctor, police officer, street cleaner, rescue boat volunteer and shop manager – are the subject of vibrant portraits found across the city centre.
Residents and visitors can now walk around York to see if they can find all 11. Meanwhile, the empty Boots shop in Coppergate has been transformed into a collage of the artworks.
They commissioned York’s Art of Protest Projects to make it happen. First, the 11 key workers told their stories of working through the upheaval created by the pandemic and had their photographs taken.
Then street art duo The Postman transformed the images into the edgy, urban ‘paste-up’ portraits you can see today.
Put York on the map
Carl Alsop, the BID’s operations manager, said the project was part of their remit to improve the appearance of York city centre.
He thought the Guardians of York trail could prove a tourist attraction, as well as being of interest to residents as the city unlocks.
“The Postman are internationally renowned street artists,” Carl said. “I think it will bring people in – and it will probably put York on the map a little bit as a street art destination, which is something we want to do long term.”
Jeff Clark, of Art of Protest, told YorkMix: “Imagine it like an open air gallery. People can come and stay for a short time or a long time, grab a selfie – or just enjoy the art, and spend some time staring at people who were doing the real hero jobs.”
He also said more big art projects were in the pipeline.
One of the subjects of the portraits, intensive care doctor Steve Wasawo, said he wanted his artwork to represent all the workers in the NHS who have worked on the frontline over the past year.
Teacher Becky Arksy, who works at Carr Junior School, said her portrait was “absolutely brilliant”.
Each of the subjects got a framed portrait to keep, and Becky knows where she’ll be taking hers next.
“Before it goes on my wall. I will take it into my class or show my children first,” she said. “I think they’ll think it’s pretty cool.”