Artworks bring Cardiff’s precious arcades back to life after shopkeepers ‘exodus’

Cardiff’s Arcades are a treasured asset of the city, with over 150 years of Welsh retail history set in magnificent Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

But despite their highly regarded status, over the past 12 months the arcades have suffered a devastating blow in three parts – restrictions related to coronaviruses, changing customer habits and, in some cases, struggles with owners.

You can read more about the issues faced by arcade store owners during the pandemic here.

If you’ve walked through them recently, you may have noticed a lot of empty premises, especially in Castle Arcade and High Street Arcade.

But thankfully, a group of seven artists breathed new life into historic passages to help businesses get back on their feet – just in time for almost all coronavirus restrictions to be lifted and people returning downtown.

So far, seven hanging artworks have been unveiled as part of this year’s City of Arcades campaign titled The Art and Soul of Cardiff, which is being led by BID FOR Cardiff.

Visitors will be greeted by an eclectic range of works of art – including a 21-foot-long hanging angel, wire figures balanced on tightropes and huge murals of Cardiff Castle’s famous animal wall .

A collaboration between the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and FOR Cardiff, the project invited seven alumni to create hanging works of art to celebrate Cardiff’s ‘distinct and vibrant culture’.

Each arcade’s artwork centers around a different theme related to the capital – take a peek below before you visit them for yourself.

Dominion Arcade – Sport

Sports sculpture at Dominion Arcade

At the center of the arcade, Brad Caleb Lee’s graphic silhouettes celebrate the plethora of sports Cardiff is known for, such as soccer, cycling and track and field.

Crafted from recycled wool, cardboard, paper and colorful vinyl scraps, the bold and vibrant color palette is inspired by the joy of jubilant crowds.

Wyndham Arcade – Fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetable sculptures at Wyndham Arcade
Fruit and vegetable sculptures at Wyndham Arcade

These playful food sculptures – made by Cadi Lane, a Cardiff-based illustrator and manufacturer, using wool, glue and batting, using a tufting gun – are inspired by food stalls in the market from Cardiff.

Their expressions represent the variety of fun and quirky characters you might encounter while spending a day in the Welsh capital.

The Arcade du Ch̢teau РHistory

Wall painting of animals in the castle arcade
Wall painting of animals in the castle arcade

For this work of art, creative Oliver Harman took inspiration from Cardiff Castle, adapted for the arcade – especially the famous animal wall which was created in the 1890s for the 3 rd Marquis of Bute.

The wildlife wall was animated by architect William Frame, based on sketches by William Burgess.

Duke Street Arcade – Music

Musical sculpture in Duke Street Arcade
Musical sculpture in Duke Street Arcade

Artist Gabrielle Moore sought to represent the organic and fluid nature of music and used the shape of weeping willows as a reference to the many different types of music that make up the sounds of Cardiff.

She used translucent materials to explore the patterns and reflections that can be created on the different surfaces of the arch.

Morgan Arcade – Arts & Theater

An angel sculpture in Morgan Arcade
An angel sculpture in Morgan Arcade

Petros Kourtellaris used recycled fabrics coated with beeswax to create an ethereal abstract figure suspended between the two arches of the arcade, inspired by objects in the Cardiff Museum.

With dramatic colors, Petros’ artwork represents a revival after our lives were put on hold by the pandemic.

“What I wanted to create was something that would awaken us. It’s almost like the character is reaching out to the community – it’s like a divine intervention, one that comes from above us.” , did he declare.

High Street Arcade – Green spaces

Flower and insect sculpture in High Street Arcade
Flower and insect sculpture in High Street Arcade

Seren Noel used recycled and natural materials to send an environmental message.

Celebrating Cardiff’s green spaces and wildlife, willow and trellis flowers hung from the ceiling, along with insects and creatures on the lampshades that line the archway.

L’Arcade Royale – Education

Tightrope figures in Royal Arcade
Tightrope figures in Royal Arcade

Designer Sophie Khan wanted to capture the balance that is a student with her wire-frame figures walking a tightrope through the archway.

Power cables are also a nod to Cardiff University’s lightning lab.

She got her thread from a building that was being stripped and sprinkled it with colorful fabrics that represent the city’s vibrancy and multicultural character.

Commenting on the project, Adrian Field, Executive Director of FOR Cardiff, said: “Cardiff’s arcades are one of the capital’s strongest assets, and City of Arcades aims to bring Welsh culture and the nation’s capital Wales on the map.

“Hanging these vivid works of art across the arcades aims to make art and culture more accessible, while making Cardiff city center a more attractive place for locals and tourists.”

Rory Fleming, Director of the Morgan District Center, said: “It’s fantastic to welcome the return of the City of Arcades campaign this year.

“The Morgan and Royal Arcades are packed with some of the city’s most unique businesses, and this incredible exhibit will help increase footfall to the arcades and shops.”

Sean Crowley, Director of Drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, said: “After 18 difficult months for those in the creative industry, we are delighted to be playing our part in this year’s campaign and to d ‘help give creative people a boost. and the exposure they need and showcase the extraordinary talents of our Design for Performance graduates.

You can follow City of Arcades on Twitter and Instagram.

About Richard Chandler

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