I asked for a wall, and they gave me a factory: Wuhan graffiti artist group gets support from local government to develop street culture
Graffiti artists supported by local government to develop street culture
A graffiti work is completed at Wuhan Municipal Art School. Photo: Courtesy of 27KM
There is a group of street artists in Wuhan. In their graffiti works, oriental cherries can still blossom around the city's landmarks in the dark winter caused by the COVID-19 virus and phoenix can be reborn of fire on the walls.
They give more colors to the city under the support of the local government.
To encourage people to stay in Wuhan when celebrating Chinese New Year, the Wuhan Youth Federation organized a series of online activities. GAN, a local graffiti artist, was invited to teach street art via livestream on February 15.
In an interview with the Global Times, the graffiti artist defined him and his group as a bridge between the government and artists of street culture.
"What is street culture? I think street culture is a kind of popular culture among young people, so it is what the government urgently wants to understand," GAN said.
He and his team, named 27KM, have organized and participated in several graffiti activities supported by the local government since 2015.
They painted six buses and a tramcar that run all around the city. They painted a whole school in Wuhan alongside international artists. They painted cherry blossoms on the pictures of city landmarks during its most difficult time following the outbreak of COVID-19.
GAN said that they are trying to show the beauty of Wuhan to the world through flamboyant colors and patterns, especially after the pandemic swept the city and seriously hurt its image.
"Many people had not been to Wuhan and now they do not dare to come here. I want them to know we do not just have the Yellow Crane Tower."
Cherry blossoms kept blooming in dark winter
The cherry blossom is one of the signs of Wuhan, representing the vitality of the city's spring. In March 2020, when the COVID-19 virus attacked the city, GAN and his team launched a plan of online graffiti themed on the spring flowers.
They invited nine photographers to record Wuhan during the pandemic. They then sent these pictures to 15 graffiti artists all around the world, including artists from Japan and South Korea, as materials.
These artists combined their impressions and imaginations of Wuhan with landmarks in the pictures and created online graffiti works.
A graffiti artist from the island of Taiwan, named SEAZK, painted a little girl embracing the streets and buildings of Wuhan, with cherry blossom patterns printed on her shoes and clothing. "Hug tightly. Embrace everyone and every street around you," the caption of the work said.
Another graffiti work of Japanese artist KOME uses pink color and abstract images of cherry blossoms surrounding a busy shopping center on Wuhan's Hanzheng street.
"After drifting along for hundreds of years, the Hanzheng street was reborn again. Wuhan residents have not been far enough to visit the new shopping malls," GAN stated, introducing the artwork.
GAN said many of the activities he organized, like this one, were not commercial, so they need lots of support. The local government is willing to provide painting locations and funding, allowing the artists more time to concentrate on their creations.
The T1 tramcar is another proof of cooperation between street artists and the government.
T1 tramcar in Wuhan that is painted with graffiti Photo: Courtesy of 27KM
A colorful tramcar drives to spring
As the haze of COVID-19 gradually cleared in the city, 13 graffiti artists around the country gathered in Wuhan to paint a tramcar and allow more people to enjoy their art.
The authority allowed them to paint on the T1 tramcar, which always runs above ground, allowing it to bring color to many corners of the city.
GAN gave artists a theme - spring, and they began to create images about spring according to their personal understandings.
"We did not talk about what we would paint with one another during the creation and only communicated about colors. After two days, the graffiti work on the tramcar was completed," GAN said.
One artist painted two lucky fish on the head of the tramcar, one red and the other black, bringing the vehicle to a reborn spring.
The tram has been running since January 23, 2021, one year after Wuhan's lockdown.
This is not the first time GAN has painted vehicles. These artists have also painted six colorful buses for the city. In their view, graffiti art should not be hidden away in side streets and dark corners, where only a small number of people can find it. It deserves more attention and fans.
The cooperation with the government started at the 2015 Meeting of Styles, the largest street cultural and art festival in the world.
从2015年的Meeting of Styles（全球涂鸦盛会，世界上最大的街头文化艺术节日）之后开始了与政府之间的合作，
GAN, as the Chinese organizer, asked the authorities if they could have some walls to hold this event. What it got as a result of was a whole abandoned factory. More than 300 artists from different countries painted graffiti everywhere in the space.
The authority helped them solve many otherproblems, such as water and electricity shortage, and even arranged buses to send them back to the hotels, as the factory is located far away from the urban area.
GAN said. "I want to bring some hope to street artists through these activities and tell them graffiti can also be positive and full of energy."
Artists paint on a wall at Wuhan Municipal Art School. Photo: Courtesy of 27KM