A street artist in the small Irish city of Limerick turned a rundown, unused gas station into a Pop Art-inspired masterpiece, all with the blessing of the local city council.
The gas station is the latest work of art in a project called Draw Out. It was the brainchild of Catherine O’Halloran, a social worker by day, who ran a street art event at a local festival and eventually convinced the city to support work at vacant lots and buildings throughout town. She plans to add another 20 installations in the city this year.
The more dilapidated the location, the better, O’Halloran says. “With sites that have been derelict for a long time, people start to disengage with them so that they almost become invisible. I think that’s interesting; in doing what we do, it highlights how disassociated we’ve become from the space around us.”
At the gas station, she hopes people will start to see new possibilities–even if the art itself, from an Irish street artist named Maser, might eventually go away. “People might have looked at that site and thought its only potential would be as a petrol station and nothing else, but now people are starting to see it in a completely different way,” O’Halloran explains. “There’s potential to open it up for other uses, like community forums, or open air workshops, or music events.”
Another project, a large mural by a vacant lot, has spurred new plans for a community garden. “When local authorities are faced with the problem of derelict sites while trying to improve the economic development of the city, it can be limiting,” she says. “I think our model looks at regenerating space without being limited by its function.”
While there was skepticism about the street art initially, once city officials saw a particular giant mural in place, they were on board. “That piece was the tipping point, where people started to see the standard of work that we were endorsing,” O’Halloran says. “This is contemporary urban art, not graffiti. I don’t think people were able to understand that in theory alone–we were lucky enough we could negotiate by putting up a piece of art.”
As the project starts to get an international reputation in the street art community, O’Halloran says she hopes to collaborate with artists from around the world. “This year, we’ve really become a lot more ambitious with the wishlist of artists that we have. I think what we’ll put out in 2014 is going to be impressive.”