In summer 2016, the Southend-on-Sea branch of British Home Stores closed for the final time. The following November, the windows were boarded up and painted over with colourful, hopeful slogans.
This was commissioned by Southend BID, a council campaign to inject capital into the town - and extended to Metal, an arts organisation who, since establishing their Southend branch in 2008, have witnessed debate within smaller, local collectives regarding a supposed monopoly on council funding and opportunities. The BHS commission refreshed this debate - some considered the liberal message of the works to be inappropriate against a backdrop of lost livelihoods. But the situation as a whole gives huge insight into art’s role in gentrification, and its current feasibility in the public sphere.
The “Painting Buildings” project is an attempt to capture this dialogue, through recorded conversations with members of Southend’s arts scene, giving voice to the fascinating benefactors of the current political context (each conversation made available for public viewing at http://paintingbuildings.org).