The kids are alright | James Micallef Grimaud

He’s getting the kids to paint murals, but don’t expect him to work for free. Street artist James Micallef Grimaud speaks to us about his contribution to the pan-European project The City Speaks, which will be happening in St James Cavalier at the end of February.

James Micallef Grimaud (centre) conducted a number of workshops with children.
James Micallef Grimaud (centre) conducted a number of workshops with children.

Could you describe how the project originated and what exactly it encompasses?

The mural concept was planned as the final work of a project called Comics in the Classroom funded by the Kreattiv scheme in collaboration with the British Council.

I was asked to direct a number of workshops with students from seven schools on the theme of diversity. I was joined by members of my 'Troglodyte' crew - Cezar Zamacola and Christian Langer - and together we tackled a different diversity subject with the students from each school. The students had to keep a number of things in mind while working on their individual panel since all the panels would eventually form the word 'diversity' and move along the colour spectrum.

What was it like working with kids? Were they instantly receptive to the idea of street/mural art, or did they need prodding?

Working with kids is always a great experience. They all gave their input during discussions on street art and how this could bring about the diversity subjects we were tackling.

Do you think that your artistic approach is more suited to kids than a 'conventional' artistic route?

My strategy is probably more of a DIY, hands on kind of approach towards art.

We discuss subjects and techniques and try them out directly on large scale surfaces within a composition. They learn while actually painting through constant guidance. I also use a number of mediums, including low pressure spray paint, which allows the students to experiment and be more versatile.

What do you think needs to be done in order to help young people be more engaged, and to learn that artistic endeavour can be more than just a 'hobby'?

I think one of the key factors which would motivate artists and the art scene on our island is if people stop expecting art to be free and voluntary. It's actually a frame of mind which has been created by artists themselves by accepting to work for free.

The exhibition will be launched on 28 February, 17:00 at St James Cavalier, Valletta