By Liz Webster / firstname.lastname@example.org
AS passers by stop to take photos, necks craned and cameras at the ready, you could say things are already looking up in Nelson Street.
After 12 months in the pipeline work has begun on transforming the grey city centre street into a colourful tourist attraction.
On Monday artists stood on cherry pickers, above the fog and bustle of traffic, to begin the huge open air project that will turn the area into Europe’s biggest piece of street art.
The £80,000 project to create See No Evil will see international graffiti artists descend on the street with the aim of attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.
The first work took shape on Sunday by the Spanish artist Aryz. Five stories high, it appears to feature a boy in a bow tie with a wolf mask on.
Artists began arriving from around the world last week to take part in the project, which has been organised by Bristol street artist and Banksy collaborator Tom ‘Inkie’ Watson.
Mike Bennett, Bristol City Council’s place-making director, who will pay for half of the project through his salary, said he was thrilled with how the project was taking shape.
He said: “We’ve had people already making the trip to and from Broadmead just to have a look.
“It’s looking fantastic – many would say it’s not graffiti but art. I think it will change the view that street art is all about tagging.
“We’re improving the street lighting in the area too and installing free wi-fi so youngsters can come down and take a picture on their phone and upload it straight to a website.
“I really think this will bring people into Bristol and increase footfall in the area.
“The artists have all come down and had a look at the space and environment and their ideas have developed from there.”
Along the road from Aryz’s work more buildings were being whitewashed ready for Dutch artist Shoe to make his mark.
New York based muralists, TATS CRU, were also surveying the building which will become their canvas.
Buildings included in the scheme include the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Unite building, 9 and 11 Quay Street, the Board Street high rise block and the overhead walkway opposite Trafalgar House.
The juvenile courts and police annexe are also to be repainted, but only on a temporary basis as they are due to be redeveloped in October.
More pieces are due to go up during the week, ahead of the official three day celebration starting Thursday when there will be 67 artists at work.
Philip Morris, 70, who lives in Barton Hill, said: “I think anything that will brighten up the area is a good thing. It’s a dump at the moment. I worked on the Magistrates Court in the 70s and it is sad to see if left like it is now.
“This might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s given the area a new lease of life.”
Paul Coombs, 55, had travelled from Bath to look at the artwork.
He said: “I’m a bit of a Banksy fan and I think it’s great for Bristol and for people to see that there are other artists out there.
“I hope it will have the same impact as his exhibition did the other summer. I think the piece that has gone up looks fantastic.”
Ed Feilden, 23, who lives in St Paul’s, was one of those working on the project. He said: “I think this puts Bristol right at the top as an international destination. It’s fantastic and I’m looking forward to the street party.”
Nelson Street will be closed off to traffic on Wednesday night but pedestrians can still gain access to watch the paintings unfold, listen to music and enjoy the street party atmosphere which will continue on Saturday August 20 and 21.
There will be music in the evenings in the former Sun Alliance building.
Nelson Street has capacity for up to 5,000 people at any one time, but if there are more than that then the other access points at Christmas Street and Broad Street will be closed off.
Visitors would then be let in at the Colston Avenue end of Nelson Street, and leave at Union Street.
Organisers hope that See No Evil will be the biggest local art event since Banksy took over the Museum of Bristol two years ago.
A similar project in Australia, is now one of the city’s top attractions, bringing in an estimated 450,000 visitors a year and money into the local economy.