Multidisciplinary British Artist Rich Thorne, aka Richt, has been exploring creativity through original work, design, animation and street pieces for the past 20 years. Projects range from Academy Award-winning film studio Aardman Animations to global powerhouse Vans. Now bristol based Richt returns to his river-port hometown of Barnstaple, North Devon, England, for his latest street project and educational program.
The project initiated by Barnstaple Town council pulls together iconic references from the area and surrounding natural land.
Spearheaded by local councillor Ricky Knight, the mural has been in development for the past 18 months and will be the first mural in the town. An environmental advocate, UNaward recipient and local teacher for over 30 years, Ricky speaks of his pride in supporting the importance of art in the area.
“There is a historic cultural tradition herein Barnstaple, from the poet John Gayto the Queen’s Theatre, a legacy wholeheartedly supported by the community. It is such a pleasure to have Richt, who was born and brought up here, return for Barnstaple’s first mural; an integral part of our rejuvenation and regeneration of the town centre in welcoming new visitors.” Ricky Knight
The artist also considers social responsibility to young people, hosting talks and workshops in schools and with youth groups worldwide. While this mural engages visitors old and new, the project most notably teams up with the North Devon Biosphere, UNESCO, coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt, for an SDG(Sustainable Development Goals) aligned workshop for young people.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” Set in 2015 by the UnitedNations General Assembly, they are part of a UN Resolution called the “2030 Agenda, which aims at eradicating poverty in all forms, realising human rights and gender equality for all.
Richt, along with childhood friend and local teacher Robbie Keast, considers the region’s fragile and spectacular natural beauty, coordinating visits to the mural and in-person sessions with the children. Providing over 200 worksheets across six primary schools, they encourage essential conversations around culture and sustainable attitudes.
The most engaged drawings with the SDG themes will win a special prize, with Richt and fellow creative Ricky Martin (Art Ninja – CBBC) returning to present it.
“Returning to my home town to engage young people through art feels very significant to me. Knowing how important the seaside and surrounding nature is, I hope this new mural can bridge a local conversation on the value of art in inspiring positive action and attitudes.” Rich Thorne (Richt)
As a UNESCO world heritage site, North Devon has biosphere status, a category reserved for places of outstanding natural beauty. Different industries learn from one another to develop strategies for how humans and nature can interact more sustainably. North Devon was the first UK UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its unique ecosystem of nature and wildlife.
“Art in the public realm is a great way to not only brighten a location but create a statement about our community. Having a mural that showcases the values we have as a community in a UNESCO biosphere is a great conversation starter. Working with primary schools means we are having that conversation with the people who will inherit whatever we leave behind. We need more of this.” Andy Bell UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Coordinator
Through Richt’s compositions, the movement and memory of graffiti culture are reimagined through a contemporary lens. Solo exhibitions include Barcelona, Amsterdam and London with public art projects and commissions from Eastern Europe and Northern Asia to the USA. His latest project launches in June 2022 with urban Nation, the world’s first museum dedicated to artists emerging from graffiti culture.
Photo credits Tom Ham, Rob Tibbles and Hanna Söderholm