There is a cemetery that lies in the middle of Aberdeen, Scotland's city center that, upon first blush, resembles many of the great gravestone treats of the UK. With dates stretching back to the 18th Century, most stones are illegible from years of weathering. But there is one, still clearly readable and unusually “kempt” gravestone. Here lies the tomb of John Henry Anderson, the “Wizard of the North,” a famous Scottish magician. But why is the tomb so clean? Well, of course, Harry Houdini, who called Anderson his inspiration, arranged for the gravesite’s upkeep while Houdini himself was still alive. It’s these little stories, and that the cemetery now provides a wonderful vantage point of a massive Herakut mural on Aberdeen Market that make Nuart’s newest festival in the northern Scottish coastal town, so special.
Like many cities around the world who have seen their downtowns transform in recent years as more and more young professionals move in, where property ownership has moved from locals to international conglomerates and offshore accounts, Aberdeen is no different. It is an oil city that is feeling the economic rollercoaster of the industry. Unlike many other European cities, It is also in the unique position of not carrying decades and decades of street art history. It’s the Granite City, grey by nature, not un-beautiful but not close to bright either. When the Stavanger, Norway based Nuart Festival was commissioned to bring their now famed version of the street art festival to Aberdeen, a unique festival in that it draws artists and academics alike, connecting threads of art history into street art’s significance, Nuart had a blank slate of sorts. And this is where Nuart Aberdeen thrived.
I asked Martyn Reed, Nuart’s founder about moving the festival to another city, with the challenges of measuring success and community participation, and he gave Juxtapoz a particular detailed answer.