Future Walls, an innovative street art initiative, has taken flight and is now firmly establishing itself in the unlikeliest of places – Sunderland, a vibrant city in the North East.

Future Walls will see, for the first time ever, an Al-generated image on a real urban wall in the form of a paste-up mural created by Brighton-based street artists The Postman and delivered by urban art production company, Art of Protest Projects.

Al and street art have already been acquainted, with several artists using the technology to produce digital images of street art with edgy urban backdrops. Now, through an idea-turned-concept which aims to celebrate historical author Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Al-generated characters have appeared larger than life, for the first time ever onto the walls of a real urban backdrop. The piece, commissioned as part of the wider Future Walls programme by Sunderland BID, is the first of its kind for The Postman and explores a variety of subjects, touching on the future’s relationship with its past, and the ethics involved in using Al technology to create art.

The integration of this Al-generated image is designed to be observed in its physical form rather than being displayed on a digital screen. This marks the dawn of fresh opportunities, but not without them accompanied by novel challenges. Using their signature paste-up medium, The Postman developed three of Carroll’s iconic characters with the prominently placed Queen of Hearts stealing the spotlight. However, a closer look reveals that the cards she holds in her deliberately unedited hands are diamonds. This is where the pixels meet the pavement. The idiosyncrasies within this image animate the thousands of algorithms that brought it to existence.

Art Meets AI: Sunderland’s Future Walls Redefines Street Art with Al-Generated Murals
Future Walls Engagement Workshop, photo by: Jeff Clark.

The recent launch of the Future Walls programme also saw the delivery of over 20 star-studded paste-ups scattered around Sunderland. Designed to grab attention, this kick-starter was supported by an elaborate three-day engagement event, gathering feedback from over 200 local residents. Future Walls will span up to eight years, bringing in some big-name artists to work alongside local talent. The initiative is to get local artists involved and give them ownership of the programme, and the many projects that will sit within it. The Future Talent programme has been created to do just that. Future Talent participant and multimedia artist Albert Cromwell said “For me, having Future Walls established and delivering various projects means further steps are being taken towards really cementing what is a developing arts scene in Sunderland and the North East. We have high-quality
arts education here in the city but there’s almost no evidence of that.”

During a visit to the University of Sunderland, Dianne Cobb joined a roundtable discussion and said:

“Being part of the Future Walls regeneration is an exciting opportunity for me. To be part of a project that has long-term goals for the City of Sunderland. Harvesting and nurturing new talent with a view to increase our visibility as local artists. The Future Talent Programme will not only equip us with the necessary skills to carry out this public realm work but will aim to leave the city with homegrown local talent. This has given me the chance to be seen and heard within our community, which is something I will be forever grateful for, as there is nothing like this anywhere within the North East.”

It’s an exciting moment for this coastal English city, as it emerges into the limelight, establishing a vibrant tech ecosystem that will position itself as a destination for digital innovation. And while compared to its neighbouring city of Newcastle which has long been recognized as a hub for street art, Sunderland is about to take the stage and make its mark on the urban art scene. As part of this process, Future Walls will integrate a multitude of digital interactions into the various projects and interventions that fall under its umbrella, supporting the overarching desired outcome of steering people toward and navigating them around the city. To achieve its aspirations, Future Walls will use a carefully crafted mixture of international, regional and local artists to paint the streets of Sunderland.

Jeff Clark, director of Art of Protest Projects, said

“It’s been an absolute privilege and honour to get to know the people, the culture, the identity of Sunderland. Future Walls wants to create a springboard for local artists to jump from, helping increase artists’ visibility and create a visually engaging and imaginative urban backdrop for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”

This innovative artwork pushes the boundaries of creativity by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to produce mesmerising visuals that captivate and inspire. We are about to witness a new era in street art as Al algorithms unleash their imagination onto the urban canvas, creating unique and thought-provoking pieces that redefine the artistic landscape.

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