A Portrait of Steve Barnibus

A new mural of local community youth worker Steve Barnabis has emerged in Walthamstow from UK artist Gabriel Pitcher. The piece is the latest in a series of creative works raising awareness and action for Project Zero, a community interest CIC tackling complex issues around vulnerable youths and knife crime in London.

The loss of young life through violent crime is an accelerating public health crisis and tackling these issues requires

attention beyond the police and elected officials. It demands a process of demystifying governmental policy to ensure engagement at a comunity level.

This portrait intends to spark the dialogue on fundamental failings in our social infrastructure, where projects like Steve’s working in youth provisions fight year on year against cutbacks and setbacks. After losing his space 2 years ago, Steve has been struggling to provide essential provisions from smaller spaces not fit for purpose. Steve now has a positive dialogue with Waltham Forest Council to secure an appropriate venue for his creative projects, which focus on social inclusion and providing support and resources for local families. If all goes well, they acquire the space before the end of the year. Steve is now launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise £150,000, 1 year of activities and services to support his community, which like so many others have been exacerbated by Covid, further straining critical issues such as domestic abuse and food poverty.

“A great concern of mine is the feeling of burn out, or financial strain that people in the community feel using their own resources to support local initiatives. There will come a time when good people may not be so keen to step forward. Meaningful work with young people requires strategies for 1, 2, 3 years, with commitments to funding going beyond single actions.

“Just as people are put on a waiting list for social housing, community groups such as Steve’s need a similar service to prioritise space. We need to work to shore up the social infrastructure for provisions specified under the Affordable workspace policies of the London Plan to ensure these essential services continue.

I have seen first hand the positive impact Steve and Project Zero have had on young people in this borough, and the void it has left in the community. I also recognize the significant financial challenge faced by local authorities suffering cuts from central government funding. These critical services are desperately needed, programs like Steve’s have a life altering effect on the people using them.” ~Mark Clack, Wood Street Walls CIC

The portrait continues the recent and urgent critique on the monuments and portraits characterising our public spaces. Gabriel’s intent is to flip the traditional vision of patronage portraiture, to champion local people working at grass roots to protect and empower their communities. The hope is that the art can bridge a connection with the local community to the issues Steve confronts daily, but to also spark a dialogue about the importance of stability in reinforcing sustainable cities locally and globally.

Title: A portrait of Steve Barnabis

Made in conjunction with Woodstreet Walls

Location: Canning Road, Walthamstow, London


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