Papergirl Bristol


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Papergirl Bristol, Papergirl Leeds, Laura Hickman, Papergirl Kelowna
28 Monday 28th March 2011
Modelled after American paperboys tossing newspapers onto porches, Papergirl aims to give people the gift of free street art and brighten up their day. Here's the idea: art submitted to the Papergirl centre is then rolled up into tubes and distributed from cycling art-lovers throughout the city in question. It is a community street art project that started in Berlin in 2006. Since its inception its spread to Argentina, America and Romania amongst loads of other countries.
We spoke to Papergirl Bristol about the lead-up to their launch this spring.
Papergirl Bristol flyer
Please tell us a little bit about Papergirl Bristol: How did you personally get involved in the project? 
It was a happy coincidence that I even heard about it. I think I was researching into the graffiti scene in Berlin as I came across Papergirl.  I loved the idea, followed it for a while, until deciding that whilst I still lived in Bristol I should set one up here.  So, I emailed the Papergirl Berlin team asking if it was okay to start up a Papergirl in Bristol. They were delighted that the idea was spreading and were happy to help us get started.
Have you visited any of the other Papergirl cities (in Europe, and the UK)? 
Not during a Papergirl event unfortunately. I would love to visit them all given the chance!  
How does Papergirl run? From submission collection to distribution, what's the process like? 
Well, the first thing that needs to be done, is advertise, advertise, advertise. Get the word out there that the project is happening.  From then on, there are a couple of months of collecting artworks from people, either personally, or by post. Then every piece of work is exhibited for free, and the distribution on bicycles will probably take less than an hour. It's a pretty long build up until you see the outcome, but it promises to be a lot of fun when you do.
What are your hopes for this first Papergirl round? 
That the idea behind it is spread more than anything, the creation and distribution of art doesn't have to be the stuff of art galleries or overly pretentious. If we collect even one person's work and it ends up brightening up someone's wall it has been a success.
How do you anticipate people reacting? 
I'm hoping in a good way. I hope that the art reaches people who might never even think of going into an art gallery, or someone who will get a surge of inspiration from it. I am sure some people might be quite confused or even shocked at having art simply given away in the way we intend to, but whatever their reaction it certainly beats them not showing interest at all.
What are your thoughts on the way in which Papergirl reclaims street art by making it legal? How would you react to the argument that the paperboy technique feminises street art by making it non-confrontational to the law? 
It seemed to me an inventive way of making street art accessible to all, including people who are uncomfortable with the illegality of graffiti art. I also like the fact that the nature of Papergirl as a project means that the art is no longer static and fixed to a single location, but moving all round the city, and eventually ending up in someone's house. Papergirl offers a different form of street art altogether.
I have no real statement to make on the legal status of street art. Although, if it is art, i find it hard to equate it to crime. If it isn't art, then why is it so loved and appreciated worldwide?  You can debate legalities for hours, but we would much rather use the time looking at cool street art and collecting artwork!
I think there is a definite link between masculinity and graffiti, but I think it is mostly down to it being a predominantly male scene, less to do with legality or a shortage of good female street artists. Papergirl isn't named to make a statement on gender or legality, more simply as a new approach, where there are no preconceived ideas, and no 'scene' to speak of. Papergirl does sidestep the legal issue, but in no way is it a product of the suffix “girl” - It's just a love of paper based artwork that rarely gets a public airing the way sprayed ink on a wall can.
What are your hopes for the Bristol branch over the next few months? 
Our hopes for the Bristol branch is that Papergirl will become a more established project. That more people want to get involved, seeing Papergirl as a good way of getting their work out to the public, and giving artists a chance to be discovered.
Submission from Laura Hickman
What sorts of reactions have you had so far from those who have submitted their work? 
Everyone we've told up until this point, has been positive about the project and very supportive. People want to get involved, not only by submitting work, but also wanting to help distribute the work. For the most part, people really appreciate the simplicity of the Papergirl process, and the opportunity to gift their work to strangers in a friendly and unusual way.
Bristol's well known for being a vibrant and young city. How do you think that factors into the way Papergirl will be received? 
I think Papergirl will find its place within Bristol. The fact that Bristol is a really creative city will help it be received openly. I don't think it will come as a huge shock to some to see a group of people on bicycles handing out rolls of art, but like any other city, Bristol is diverse in its population. What we hope to achieve is that Papergirl also connects with people who are not part of the creative art scene. In fact, I think most Bristol folk will embrace the project with excitement and encouragement.
Finally, how well-connected is your Bristol branch to the other UK branches of Papergirl? Anything collaborative in the pipeline?
There is nothing collaborative as of yet and each branch of Papergirl operates independently. That is not to say that we wouldn't be delighted to work with all of the others! There has been light conversation of a collective Papergirl event that happens at the same time all over the UK with shared exhibition and distribution dates. Fingers crossed, we will be able to get it organised.
Papergirl Bristol closes submissions on April 1st. Check out their blog and Facebook page for more information.

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