Why Bristol is a great city for art lovers | Top Universities

Why Bristol is a great city for art lovers

By Marin F

Updated December 19, 2022 Updated December 19, 2022

Home of Banksy and the host of Europe’s largest free art festival Upfest, Bristol is well known for its thriving art scene. People flock to the city to explore the collection of street art, galleries and festivals, proving year after year that it’s worth the hype.  

As a student at the University of Bristol, these are my favourite spots for art lovers.    

 

Graffiti and street art 

As you’re wandering around Bristol, you’ll have the constant urge to stop and take a picture of every piece of street art you see, and you should. It might not be there the next day as new pieces are created all the time

Stokes Croft 

 

For the most diverse selection of street art, make your way to Stokes Croft, the city’s cultural and artistic quarter. The area is known for its independent and local character and is trying hard to keep it, a struggle that is captured beautifully by the boldly-displayed murals on storefronts and walls.  

The area is lined with independent shops, small and locally-sourced cafes, pubs and bars, and is buzzing with activity every day of the week. Every corner of every street tells a compellingly different story, yet each piece of artwork demonstrates a strong socio-political message.  

These messages take a powerful stand against the gentrification of the area with an overall theme of rooting for ‘people power’. Keep your eyes peeled for narrow alleys, under-passages, side streets and corners as you might find some hidden gems! 

Bedminster  

Bedminster is a district located on the south side of the city that offers a wide variety of independent shops, restaurants, markets and cafes. Ashton Gate Stadium, home to Bristol City FC and Bristol Rugby, is also located here. North Street, one of the most central areas of Bedminster, is home to The Tobacco Factory which hosts events, exhibitions, live music and a weekly Sunday market.  

Most of the artwork in Bedminster has been commissioned as part of the Upfest street art festival which takes place in Bristol every July, showcasing work by local and global artists. 

Upfest celebrates the power of art in bringing about unity, as people come together not just to discuss art, but to perform it. As well as watching artists create their work, the festival offers interactive activities for guests including graffiti stencil workshops, as well as live music and food trucks. 

A visit to Bedminster during the festival is recommended. You’ll get to experience the creative chaos of the works in progress, but you can see the murals any time of the year. 

Banksy 

 

It’s almost impossible to talk about Bristol’s street art without mentioning the world-famous Banksy, whose politically-charged and satirical work can be found all over the city.  

If you’re enjoying your coffee at Emmeline in Stokes Croft, you’ll overlook Banksy’s Mild Mild West, and if you walk up one of Bristol’s steepest hills on Park Street, you’ll be greeted by the Well-Hung Lover. Banksy’s presence is felt almost everywhere in Bristol.  

 
Museums and art galleries 

Well known for its artistic heritage, Bristol has an excellent mix of museums and art galleries that will show you a diverse historical and current look at the city from various perspectives.  

M Shed 

Located on Bristol's historic Harbourside, M Shed tells the story of our city's history. Transformed into a museum from a wharf, M Shed is a living museum and gives its visitors the opportunity to take part in discussions about Bristol’s future, instead of solely showcasing the city’s past. 

M Shed is also home to the Colston Statue that was pulled down and rolled into the harbour by Black Lives Matter protesters in June 2020. The city council pulled it out from the water to have it displayed in the museum.   

The museum is free to the public and is accessible, making it easier to experience the sides of Bristol you might not have seen before, through moving personal stories, unusual objects, and interactive displays.  

That Art Gallery 

This independent art gallery is located in the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter, where it exhibits established and emerging contemporary artists in a small shop front. The organisers are known for hosting pop-up group exhibitions where up-and-coming artists are invited to present their work. 

That Art Gallery is known for its eclectic mix of work, giving visitors the opportunity to see the world from the artists’ differing subjective perspectives and interpretations.  

Centrespace 

 

Centrespace is a spirited independent and sustainable community of artists in Bristol who offer space for workshops, events and exhibitions. As you follow the path down to Leonard Lane in the centre of Bristol, you’ll be surrounded by a colourful and diverse collection of street art before you find the gallery, which is a bold exhibition on its own.  

Don’t let its city centre location fool you - this gallery is located on a narrow side street, giving it a hidden feel. The community has made it their mission to encourage new and promising artists to share their talent with the rest of Bristol.  

Centrespace creates an impeccable atmosphere that brings artists and art enthusiasts together - strengthening Bristol’s artistic community and culture. The exhibitions vary in style, meaning and purpose, so it’s usually a matter of which one you manage to catch as they rarely stay in the gallery for more than a couple of days. 

  

Art fairs and markets  

There is an abundance of art fairs and markets in Bristol, as a city that’s never short of artists and art lovers. These events not only form a bridge between these two groups but also make it even more accessible for people to browse and purchase art directly from the artists in the city and across the UK. 

People’s Republic of Stokes Croft 

 

People’s Republic of Stokes Croft is a community enterprise working to create new alternative ways of building a sustainable, anti-consumerist and collective future. Their facilities include a media centre, gift shop, event space and outdoor land for workshops and gatherings.  

One of the many ways the organisers perform activism and communicate their messages across the city is through art, and their most popular event is the People’s Art Fair, which takes place in December each year.  

In celebration of culture and artistic expression, the People's Art Fair welcomes all types of artists, makers, photographers, painters, and sculptors and hosts events from comedy and poetry to live music sessions and, a Christmas must-have, a festive market.   

Society’s Pills 

Society’s Pills is an up-and-coming art fair that successfully forms a bridge between Bristol’s local artists and art enthusiasts, allowing visitors to support artists directly by purchasing their work. I’ve bought a watercolour illustration of the Christmas Steps, which is one of my favourite places in Bristol, and has added a unique touch to my student house. 

From oil paintings to photographs, ceramics to clothes and accessories, the range of work on offer is expanding rapidly. Art can be expensive to buy, but the makers offer items at varying prices and students can get discount on their purchases too. It’s free admission, so you can pop by and have the chance to meet artists with different levels of experience and expertise.  

  

The city’s flourishing art scene is exciting for art lovers, but for artists attempting to make a career from their art, it can be challenging. But the competition seems to inspire artists all over Bristol to keep adding to the city’s unique canvas.  

Studying in such a vibrant and colourful city full of art has been amazing. If I could choose where to study again, it would always be Bristol.  

This article was originally published in December 2022 .

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