“Spray paint is way more exciting than anything you learn in school,” says Maser. Being a street artist, he says, “touches a lot of things that interested me as a youth. It’s outdoors, and I get to explore the city.”
It's lunchtime in the Clay Youth Project in Crumlin, and the Dublin street artist is reflecting on his latest project: creating a mural with local young people. "I would have loved to have had [something like this] when I was younger."
The Clay Project facilitates activities for young people aged 10-21 in the lower Crumlin area of Dublin. It has been active since 2004. Elements include pool, film-making, table tennis, drug awareness, a Garda Diversion programme, employment and education services, gardening and the arts. Project leader Lorraine McHugh says: “We offer universal services, but we also offer support and intervention services, which we design ourselves.”
Maser’s goal for this artwork is not simply to produce a good-looking piece of art, but to get the group – of up to 12 – to take ownership of the work. “[I] could take control of it and make sure the mural is a whopper, one of my best, but then what are you leaving with them? Aesthetically a great piece, but . . . you have to create this mural together.”
Maser has spent the morning discussing concepts with the group, which he says was challenging. “You’re asking them to look at themselves, and what interests them and that’s quite hard for a lot of young kids . . . It’s that age when you’re like ‘I don’t want to express myself too much for fear of being slagged’. You’re trying to manage all that.”
Creating this artwork “really brings me back to that stage in my life when you’re nervous, or you’re self-conscious. I think these places are the great common ground where kids come together outside the pressures of school.”
He stresses the significance of leaving one’s mark on a space, particularly in grounding a young person. “To let yourself know you are here, you’re doing this; you are part of this space.”
One of Maser’s students, Karl Buckley, has produced a piece of artwork – inspired partly by Salvador Dali’s clocks – as preparation for the mural. “The clocks in the picture shows how much time we spend here and how it progresses over time,” he says.
Other imagery in Karl’s piece includes bridges, a reference to the problems some of the students must overcome, windows to represent the flats next to the project, and various lines to symbolise individuality.
Rebecca Clifford’s concept for the mural embodied the forward-thinking mindset Maser was seeking: “I came up with the rainbow theme . . . It shows that Clay respects and are aware of all the LGBTQ community and support equality and that everyone is unique.”
The mural was funded by the Coca-Cola “Thank You, Fund”, a corporate social responsibility initiative that offers grants of €5,000 to €30,000 to youth projects and non-profit organisations. The Clay Youth Project also hopes to apply for funding to hire a specialist to assist members with special needs. If this is a success, the project will then approach the Department of Children for longer-term financing.
The deadline for applications to the fund is Friday, July 13th. www.coca-cola.ie/thankyou