A Face on a Wall: How embracing ‘Artivism’ can help young people find their voice

26 October 2023

Topic: Voices of young people
Author: Michael Archibald

Blog - A face on a wallIn this blog post for Care Experienced Week, Michael Archibald (pictured above), a student, artist and activist, discusses being involved in – and being the face of – one of five new murals across Scotland that celebrate, raise awareness, and share the voices of care experienced youth.

My name is Michael Archibald. I am an 18-year-old care experienced young man who is studying psychology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Throughout my time growing up, being care experienced was a consistent challenge I had to face, and it can be a lot for young people to grow up feeling as though they’re different. Having nobody else to turn to, I was lucky enough to have been recommended a charity – Articulate Cultural Trust (ACT) - that focuses on care experienced youth and enabling them to have access to creativity through the arts. Being the artist I am, it was a perfect opportunity.

Getting involved in youth-led participation

ACT is a charity that uses creativity and art to benefit marginalised groups of young people, with a particular focus on those who are care experienced. Upon joining the charity last summer, I began with getting involved in their spray-painting workshops. This was the starting point for work that would eventually go on to lead the young people involved in the group to cultivate and create a series of new murals across Scotland with the aim of raising awareness of care experienced people and acting as a ‘call to action’ for passers-by to think about positive change.

The Glasgow mural was installed at the University of Strathclyde on Cathedral Street in August 2023, but behind the scenes, we had been working towards the Gable End mural project, which will see five murals installed across Scotland representing care-experienced youth, for some time. Following murals in Dundee and Kilmarnock, Glasgow was our next target! To make it happen, ACT led on providing workshops and put together youth-led meetings where we were shown an image of the wall we would work on and sat down with the professional mural artist and signwriter, Frank Carty of Artisan Artworks. There were roughly 10 young people in the group but it was very much open to all members at ACT, with everyone welcome to contribute bits and pieces. From there, it was down to the young people to discuss, explore and draw out our ideas on what we wanted to see on the wall.

For me, it’s important to give young people a platform to have their voices heard. Giving young people these opportunities and enabling them to have a say in matters that affect them can make a world of difference. You can take a young person who felt like they didn’t have much going on for them and give them a place somewhere that’s important to them, which is what being involved in the project was like for me.

The power of ‘Artivism’

The mural, which was installed at a University of Strathclyde building on Cathedral Street, is incredible. With ‘Artivism’ as its name, it’s our form of artistic activism.

The other young members of ACT and I worked incredibly hard on the design and the ideas behind it. We wanted something that would represent us as care experienced young people and had meaning behind it. Using the structure of the wall, we noted that it was divided into sections. Since so many people had so many different and creative ideas, we thought we could use the panels to represent different times so the mural shows care experience through the ages, including references to the UNCRC (the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and The Promise. I was also ecstatic to have been approached and asked if I’d like to be a face on the mural - little did I know it would be so big and important!

CEW23 blog artivism mural.png
Photo of the finished mural featuring a portrait of Michael, courtesy of Graham Connelly

I find that, especially in Glasgow, murals are incredibly meaningful. They hold a lot of weight and are respected and celebrated. They improve the look of the local community and serve the purpose of getting people looking and wondering what the meaning behind it is. They’re a beautiful form of public art and with the project representing care experienced youth and spreading that awareness to those who’ve never heard of care experience, it has such a huge impact.

There’s a lot to look forward to in the future and beyond, and a lot that has already come about. Ever since being involved in such a big project like this with ACT, I’ve been able to find my voice and get involved in many more projects which aim to spread awareness and celebrate care experienced young people. From running to be a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament to being the designer of a new brand working with care-experienced folk with John Lewis, I want more people to know what being care experienced means, and, since the creation of this mural, I hope that other people in care can find strength in their voices now more than ever.

Watch Articulate Cultural Trust’s video documenting the creation of the Glasgow mural and interviewing some of the key people involved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n93upLabUB0


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