The Mother City’s newest art festival promises to bring art lovers out of the galleries and on to the streets – and they will possibly be swapping their delicate glasses of bubbles for craft beers.

Baz-Art, the company behind next month’s inaugural International Public Art Festival (IPAF), is a non-profit organisation that has been described as the “love child” of relationships that grew around the creation of Leopold 7 craft beer. The festival is just one part of Baz-Art’s plan to use art to improve people’s lives and environments.

Other aspects of the programme, to be launched during IPAF from Feb 10-20, include making neighbourhoods more beautiful and safer, giving art lessons to children and helping to get spin-off businesses, such as food stalls, cafes and galleries, off the ground.

Alexandre Tilmans, co-owner of Leopold 7 and a partner in Baz-Art, told the African News Agency (ANA) on Thursday that it was the process of creating, marketing and selling the craft beer that had “opened his eyes to the power of art”.

Crafty combo: Alexandre Tilmans, a partner in Leopold 7 and Baz-Art

Tilmans, who is currently building a brewery in Cape Town For Leopold 7, said he had collaborated closely with artists and designers in Cape Town. During this process, he said, he became aware of a large gap in the art world in South Africa.

In a city that is home to so many beautiful murals, Tilmans was amazed that public art was seen to have such negative connotations and that there was a municipal bylaw declaring graffiti an illegal act.

Despite all the art fairs and festivals and the excitement around the the imminent opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) at the V&A Waterfront, Tilmans said he was surprised that there was no event dedicated to public art.

“There is certainly no shortage of talent,” he said.

This was why Tilmans and Sebastien Charrieras, owner and director of XO Events, a company that specialises in events and incentives, decided to throw the “combined force of their skills, experience and passion into a project designed to uplift artists while transforming the communities around them and helping South African public art claim its rightful position in the global art world”.

The festival is a centrepiece of Baz-Art’s work and will be used to launch various other projects under the banners of education, international exchange and community upliftment.

The festival is timed to fall around the time of two other art events, the Cape Town Art Fair and That Art Fair. IPAF, the organisers say, will offer very different art and inspiration from what is on offer at the more traditional art events.

After The Rain Comes Sun After The Sun Comes Rain again by Faith47 and Mak1one

Baz-Art says it has the support of the local communities and authorities, as well as “a list that reads like the Who’s Who of the South African public art world”. Just a few of the artists who have expressed an interest in the festival are Faith47, Mak1one and Falko.

The inaugural festival will be focused on the district of Salt River, one of the communities where Baz-Art is developing educational and economic activities to encourage “inclusive community building and respect for the arts”. Baz-Art has set up a festival office at Blackpool Football Club in Salt River.

In the run-up to the festival, Baz-Art is identifying walls in the surrounding neighbourhood for artists to paint, making sure neighbours are happy with the plans and getting all the necessary sign-offs.

Each contributing artist will be given a space in Salt River to decorate as they choose. The murals will be designed to beautify the area, adding to Salt River’s unique character, and to engender a sense of pride in individuals behind the stories and those depicted in them.

Refugee Rights are Human Rights by Faith47 and Mak1one in District Six, Cape Town

Local people are being trained to take guided tours of the neighbourhood focusing on public art.

A number of other activities are planned for the festival, from live painting by street artists to music and street food and a programme of street tours.

The organisers say the 10-day festival will also be the launchpad for various long-term projects, including art classes for schoolchildren, with eight schools initially identified.

Another pillar of Baz-Art’s mission is to enhance South Africa’s role as an international hub for art. The company says it will work with existing art fairs and events and create new partnerships with players around the world to build Africa’s profile.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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