Waterford Walls 2017, which runs from August 17th to 20th, was launched recently by RTÉ’s Dermot Bannon.
The festival was founded two years ago by a team looking to bring colour back to Waterford City, and expanded to include Tramore last year.
Organisers say they have increased their artist numbers and expanded their programme this year, with work already beginning on O’Connell Street.
In last week’s edition, a number of business operators in the O’Connell Street area expressed concern in relation to some of the artwork which forms part of Waterford Walls.
The issue was also discussed at a recent meeting of O’Connell Street traders held last week to discuss the development of a ‘cultural quarter’ and which was attended by representatives from Waterford Walls.
Calls were made for “greater engagement” from organisers and “more respect for businesses”.
A local Councillor has now also reiterated his own concerns in relation to the street art festival.
Earlier this year, Tramore Councillor Joe Conway (Ind) slated the artwork placed on the old Xtravision premises in the town as part of last year’s Waterford Walls, describing it as “dreary and depressing.”
“Art, it is said, should be for everyone. It can be uplifting, challenging, inspiring and consolidating. Obversely, it can arouse feelings of alienation, angst…even anger,” he said.
“When it comes to the recent facelift of the old Xtravision building in Tramore, the latter seems to be in a significant majority…if the comments made to me over the past couple of months are any barometer.”
Reiterating his concerns to The Munster Express this week, Cllr Conway says he has spoken with 40-50 people who say they do not like the artwork which was placed on the Xtravision building – and has only encountered one person in favour of it.
“I have to say that the artwork does nothing for me. It is dreary and depressing, looking a bit like Medusa’s latest hairdo!” he said.
Given that so much has been done in Tramore in recent years to improve the look of the town, he said this “new artistic addition” was “not doing much to brighten up the Summerhill side”.
“After all, many community efforts and significant business investment has been made here – and I think they deserve more. Whoever owns the gaff at this stage, they could do the town a mercy…and change this awful façade,” he said.
Cllr Conway added that he has no problem with Waterford Walls “in principal” but would like to see more consultation and community involvement.
“Any artwork has to be carried out with the sensitivity of the surrounding areas in mind and the sensitives of people and businesses should be taken into account,” he said.
Tramore is not involved in this year’s Waterford Walls festival.
Edel Tobin of Waterford Walls highlighted that the total value of PR achieved by Waterford Walls is €2.5 million.
“This was confirmed by an independent specialist agency following last year’s event. We take metrics like this very seriously as we work closely with many businesses and business groups, and like to share information as accurately as possible,” she said.
She also said the festival generated increased footfall to the city and provided benefits for accommodation providers.
“This is feedback we have received directly from accommodation providers, eateries and reputable businesses in the city,” she said.
She also highlighted the “tens of thousands of hours” which volunteers have contributed to the festival
Commenting on the concerns expressed, she said: “Street art is a transient art form and murals are not expected to be permanent unless requested. It is our experience to date that almost all of the murals painted have been well-received and businesses, wall owners, council have wanted to retain these artworks which is their prerogative.”
She added: “We conducted research in 2015 and 2016. Over 500 people responded to the survey which included businesses, residents and visitors. In this research, the response was overwhelmingly positive – 98 per cent wanted the project to return and thought that the project increased their day to day enjoyment and perception of the city.”