The new artwork is a perfect addition to the downtown green space

A new collection of artwork adds a thought-provoking and visually vibrant extra dimension to a popular green space in Leeds city centre.

Leeds City Council commissioned local artist Melody Sutherland earlier this year to create a series of interactive art installations in Merrion Gardens.

She was tasked with using her talents to shine a light on the stories of people of marginalized genders – including young women and girls – in Leeds.

And Melody did just that, working with her mother, Nicola, who is an artist herself, to produce a pair of colorful large-scale murals on the gatehouse-like building that runs along the northern edge of the gardens.

Benches and litter bins around the site – located between Merrion Street and New Briggate, next to St John’s Church – also received eye-catching paintings.

As part of her work on the project, Melody interviewed 10 gender-marginalized people between the ages of 10 and 26 about their lives, their hopes for the future and their views on the world.

The faces of two of his interviewees feature on the murals in the gatehouse, while one-meter-square portraits of the other eight will soon be displayed on the site’s perimeter railings.

An information board is also being set up and will display a QR code linking to a YouTube documentary about the project which was directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Rob Whiteley and includes excerpts from Melody’s research interviews.

The outdoor gallery, it is hoped, will make Merrion Gardens more welcoming than ever to people of all ages and backgrounds, while providing visitors with the perfect opportunity to pause to reflect and reflect on the challenges that continue to face. face marginalized members of society.

The scheme complements other recent improvements in this corner of the town centre, including the construction of a new children’s play area at Merrion Gardens, funded by the council and its North West Community Committee.

Summer picnic benches have been set up in St John’s Park, while a permanent traffic-free space – perfect for al fresco dining and socializing – has been created on New Briggate by pedestrianizing the end lower street.

Melody’s artwork will be officially unveiled to the public at a free launch event at Merrion Gardens on Saturday July 30.

The event, which runs from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., is aimed at people of all ages and will feature music, refreshments and games as well as a chance to learn more about the project and meet some of the interview group.

Councilor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member of Leeds City Council for Economy, Culture and Education, said:

“We want to make sure spaces like Merrion Gardens are engaging and appealing to everyone in Leeds, and this project is a great example of how we do that.

“The new artwork is great, it adds a real splash of color to a much-loved downtown spot. However, the message it sends is equally important: our city is a place where people of all backgrounds can feel welcome and live their best life.

“Melody did a wonderful job and our thanks go to her and all the young people involved. They should be very proud of the role they played in creating something with such a positive and celebratory purpose.

Speaking about the project, Melody said: “It has been hugely rewarding to work on and I’m really happy with the results – I hope it will make Merrion Gardens a more welcoming and inclusive space for everyone.

“A big thank you to everyone who has been supportive, including my mother, the council and, of course, the young people who have spoken with such honesty and emotion about their life experiences.

“Speaking with them and having the opportunity to tell their stories was incredibly inspiring. It’s great to see people who may have been in the back of society before instead of at the front. -plan for a project like this.”

Melody’s interviews were carried out as a result of community engagement work organized with the help of groups and initiatives such as Out 2 18, The Shine Project and Leeds Youth Voice.

The artwork program has received funding from the government’s Return Fund, which is backed by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund. The Welcome Back Fund has been designed to help councils across England safely reopen their local economies after the pandemic by making town centers as welcoming and friendly as possible for visitors, residents and businesses.

Ongoing improvements in and around Merrion Gardens and New Briggate are part of a wider council-led town center transformation, with further high quality public realm features having been created at locations such as the Corn Exchange and Cookridge Street.