Their mission statement declares that the ‘People’s Republic of Stokes Croft believes that the strength of the local community resides in its creativity, tolerance and respect for each other.’ Any visitor to Jamaica Street cannot help but be overwhelmed by this creativity; every shop, house, wall and even the massage parlor bears the marks of local artistic expression. From sprawling accumulative murals to minute individual pieces, the road functions as a canvas for those who live there.
The current exhibition at the Peoples’ Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) New Gallery is themed faithfully in this community vein. It features forty-seven portraits of randomly selected Bristolians, painted by artists from the area, including Katy Bauer, Jack Tierney and Paul Wheatcroft. The works themselves vary considerably in style; there are impasto oil paintings, pencil sketches, graffiti pieces and surrealist acrylics. Discounts are offered on each painting to the family of the sitter, further reinforcing the sense that this exhibit is not just hosting portraits of the local people by the local people, but also that the art is produced for the pleasure and enjoyment of Stokes Croft residents.
Above a selection of Bauer’s paintings reads the gallery’s ethos: to ‘acknowledge the present and recent past as significant.’ This focus rings true in the work of the PRSC: they exist in the present for the promotion of their local community. Next door to the New Gallery is the Selling Gallery, a shop that sells furniture that has been recovered from skips, and then painted by local artists, as well as a large selection of china, that has been newly and uniquely decorated. In addition it features a Dutch auction of local art, with prices reducing each day, for a more affordable option if you’re looking to buy.
Whether you are a resident of Stokes Croft, Bristol, or further afield, the work of the PRSC and the district’s local artists bring the area to life for all who pass through.
Think Local, PRSC New Gallery, 37 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft; 17-30 November