How art is helping cities and towns recover from Covid-19

Towns and cities are using art and design to add a much-needed shot of positivity and optimism into city centres as they cautiously reopen for business

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said “the purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls”. Never has that wash been more necessary, as anyone who’s wandered around a desolate town centre recently can attest.

A wander around Huddersfield centre on a Saturday morning shows a town blinking into the daylight, carefully picking up the pieces of the last three months, cautiously opening its doors to shoppers. In an alleyway off New Street, the main shopping drag, artist Rob Walker daubs bright teal paint on the brickwork, as the word PRIDE begins to emerge in enormous shadow letters. Passers-by stop to admire, at least three of them use the words “cheerful” or “cheery”. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, says Walker, “It’s been ‘we need this’ and ‘we deserve this’ and, in one case, ‘why so posh?’. Even in the 2% of negative responses there’s been a sense of “having a platform to talk about things”, says Walker.

Elsewhere in the town he’s painted the words Let’s Stick Together, You Got This and Hope. It’s all part of the Huddersfield BID’s (Business Improvement District) ‘Tart Up The Town’ project, which is installing window vinyls, street art and floor graphics in six of the less attractive parts of the town centre. The BID’s aim is to “develop and maintain a safe and attractive environment for visitors, residents and people working in the town centre” and what better way to do that than with art?