Local artist Alex Pawson

Artist creating wall art around Cardiff with vulnerable teenagers

Graffiti-style murals brighten up buildings and help youngsters

AN artist has been creating graffiti-style wall art around Cardiff with the help of some vulnerable young people he works with.

Alex Pawson, 33, from Heath, is a support worker in a community house in Roath for young people with mental illnesses, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

He started an art project in the community house and began teaching the residents how to use spray cans, and they created a mural on one of the house’s walls.

A mural inside the community house, painted by Alex and the community house service users. Credit: Alex Pawson

He then uploaded a picture of this mural to Facebook and asked if any Cardiff businesses wanted him to do something similar.

His first project was at Cathays Beer House, Crwys Road, and he took one of the community house’s service users to paint a new mural with him.

Mr Pawson said: “He really loves it. I think it’s really good for his social inclusion because it’s in sort of the ‘real world’, so he loves it anyway.

“And because he’s quite a young guy, I think the spray painting is attractive, because it’s almost a bit naughty. It’s not like an art gallery, it’s more like street art, so I think he really likes that.

“I’ve brought him to some of the meetings [with the businesses] with potential paintings as well because I wanted to show him the whole process of it, and just get him out there. He’s been in the system for a long time, so it’s good to get him out in the real world.”

Alex at work on the shutter of Cathays Beer House

Mr Pawson has created paintings in countries such as Albania, Slovakia, Cambodia and Thailand, and often offers to paint a mural in a guest house when he travels to these countries in exchange for free accommodation.

He moved to Cardiff last year and began working in the community house, and he wants to give vulnerable young people the chance to do something creative within their local community.

“The stage before community house is hospital, and that’s a very different environment, and a lot more troubled environment. So the community house is like the halfway house to being let into the community full time. I think community inclusion is really vital and it helps him a lot,” he said.

While Mr Pawson does not profit from the service, he does ask that the businesses cover the cost of the spray cans, which are about £5 each.

Finished artwork on the side of Cathays Beer House. Credit: Alex Pawson

However, the owners of Cathays Beer House, Martin and Diane Holmes, opted to donate extra money to Mr Pawson to help him buy more paint.

Mr Holmes said: “I just wanted something that was really bright and in your face. The only thing I told him was on the side I wanted a bottle with our name on and also something on the front for when we’re shut just to brighten up the area.”

Mr Pawson has several upcoming projects, and he has had to turn down some offers because of the demand he has received.

Another work in progress in Roath. Credit: Alex Pawson

“It’s a positive thing for everyone really. It’s positive for the guy I’m working with, it’s positive for me because I’m getting my art out there, and also positive for the community because I really believe that, especially nowadays and in the last 10-20 years, cities have really understood the attraction of street art and how it’s not graffiti necessarily, it’s brightening up the community,” he said.