At the end of 2019, two students from Plymouth College of Art had their ambitious art project spreading positivity installed under the Pennycomequick Railway Bridge in the city. Promising to brighten up a little bit of Plymouth and promote mental health awareness, students Poppy Cowan and Brodie Butchart had six of their bright and positive posters installed under the bridge.
Working with Plymouth City Council and with permission by Network Rail, the posters by the two Foundation Diploma in Art & Design students are passed daily by thousands of people on their daily commutes to work, university and school. The large posters radiate happiness, with bright illustrative work accompanied by messages of well-being and positivity.
Poppy explains: “The idea for decorating the railway bridge came as I was walking home from school. I’m often lost in negative thoughts or zoned out while walking as the walk has become dull and repetitive and I feel others may feel the same way. This led me to think of a way to add a bit of excitement and colour to my regular route home. The bridge underside is a dull and uninspiring part of my journey, but it has a lot of potential as thousands of commuters pass underneath each day by car and on foot. The aim of this project is to liven up this area and bring a bit of good energy into people’s daily lives.”
Benefit for all
Thanks to generous support from PCH Manufacturing and a massively successful crowdfunding campaign, Poppy and Brodie managed to raise the funds needed to install the posters for everyone in the community to benefit from.
Being proud of who you are
“This project is about being who you are and being proud of it,” says Brodie. “It’s about creating a realistic and honest environment and a message of mental health awareness that doesn’t just focus on the illnesses, but more directly on the people affected. We want to acknowledge that whilst there has been a big push for mental health awareness lately, it’s not normalised yet and is still a taboo topic for many people.”
Making a difference
Both Poppy and Brodie are previous students of Plymouth High School for Girls, who are now undertaking a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Plymouth College of Art. They are excited by the idea that this project could make a real difference. Brodie explains: “This project opens up the bridge for other artists to use in the future and promotes local artists creating art for our spaces and community.”
Spreading messages of positivity is something that Poppy and Brodie have both focused on in their art. Brodie painted murals in the Plymouth High School for Girls’ Sixth Form Common Room to brighten the room and promote happiness. Poppy had plenty of success with another previous project, spreading positivity as far as she could: “Initially I made handmade badges of happy characters with positive affirmations and distributed them around Plymouth, requesting that whoever finds them takes them on their journey with them. Amazingly, they travelled far and wide, reaching Thailand, Australia and all across Europe. I received some amazing pictures and lovely comments saying how pleased and happy people were to find the badge.”
Artists engaged in the community
Madalaine Blyth, Course Leader for Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Plymouth College of Art’s Pre-Degree centre says: “Poppy and Brodie’s work is a fantastic example of students getting actively engaged in their community and making a difference to their city through socially-minded art. It’s wonderful to see young creatives in Plymouth take ownership of their city through meaningful projects such as this, supported through their schools to think bigger than the art studio.
“The team at Plymouth High School for Girls have supported and encouraged Poppy and Brodie throughout the project and should be congratulated for their hard work. It is through dedicated and engaged art teachers that the next generation of young artists will change the world for the better.
“Since joining us on Foundation Diploma, Poppy and Brodie have continued to develop work which addresses community needs, such as exploring Social Justice at the Tate Britain, participating in the Plymouth Art Weekender in September and most recently having their work, developed in response to ideas of home and belonging, displayed in Los Angeles as part of a project with OTIS College. We cannot wait to see what is next for them both!”
Tom Varrall, Head of Art at Plymouth High School for Girls, has seen the project from its conception: “I am very excited at the prospect of having such a bold and beautiful collection of images up in what was a dingy and bleak part of our city. They will send a message of positivity, conceived in an A level Art lesson, from the confines of education, out to the community beyond, and to the people of Plymouth. Thanks to hard work and determination, what started out as an ‘imagine if…’ conversation is now becoming a reality and the pair are over the moon. Brodie and Poppy are amazing young people – they are daring, sensitive and positive in the face of the challenging world they are growing into, they are willing to take risks to bring us all closer together. I have learnt a lot from working with them and wish them the best of luck in their futures.”