Writing’s on the wall: how street art creates learning spaces

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Steet art can be used to help establish a public space for teaching and learning, according to a Goldsmiths academic.

John Johnston, Head of the MA Artist Teachers and Contemporary Practices in the Department of Educational Studies, has contributed a chapter to the award-winning book Translating Dissent: Voices from and with the Egyptian Revolution.

The co-authors were honoured as Linguists of the Year by linguistic news service Inttranews – which came ahead of the fifth anniversary of the revolution in the north African country on 25 January.

John’s chapter Democratic Walls: Street Art as Public Pedagogy explores the concept of street art as a tool for teaching by practitioners who create the works.

Artist and teacher John has previously worked in Belfast where he created the work Peace/Separation Wall, West Belfast (2010), made in collaboration with Belfast political mural painter David (Dee) Craig.

After spending time with a small group of artists in Cairo in 2014, John said: “It was an honour to be invited to write on this subject - particularly considering that the vast majority of authors have been rightly drawn from the Arab world.

“There is always something to be learned through the juxtaposition of contexts and indeed areas of study. While much has been written about the street art of both Northern Ireland and Egypt, these commentaries have tended to focus on the symbolic nature and narratives of such works. 

“Little has been written about the use of these images to transform public space into places of learning. I attempt to frame street art within the paradigm of public pedagogy - therefore asking two extremely important questions of the artists - what is it you want to teach us and why?”

John thanked his colleagues in the Department of Education for their support while he researched his work, adding: “I am delighted that the book has received this recognition and hope that it continues to be seen as an act of resistance.”

The co-authors of Translating Dissent… were honoured as Inttranews Linguists of the Year for 2016.

Each year since 2006, the nominees for the Inttranews “Linguist of the Year” awards are selected and the winner elected by the readers of Inttranews, the leading daily news bulletin for the language industry.

The award recognises the struggle – and sometimes the personal sacrifice – of linguists who have helped increase public awareness of the importance of linguists and languages during the year.

The co-authors elected to give their €1,000 award to charity – with the funds going to Solidarités International.