Public art is more than just another bright wall

Sven Christian, founder of ISM-SKISM
Sven Christian, founder of ISM-SKISM

Visitors to the small town of Clarens in the Free State, perhaps there for a quiet break or for the beer festival, often don’t notice the nearby township of Kgubetswana. This may change since Sven Christian and a team of artists set about painting over the town in October 2014. What begin as a once-off painting project has snowballed to the painting of houses, tuckshops and clothing stores to field fences, taverns and even a car.

Christian, a former Rhodes University Fine Arts student, began ISM-SKISM, a public art initiative that engages with the community using murals, graffiti and street art and imagines an entire community covered in paintings.

He takes us through some of the work that his team has created, showing us how along the process, more and more community members have become involved, creating a sense of pride in their space and themselves.


He hopes that more communities can be reached with this project in the future. It’s more than just brightening up spaces, he explains. Working with art and the community redirects tourism to lesser visited spaces, gives local artists a wider access to an audience, results in better paying commissioned work as local artists realise the value of their work, and creates confidence in a community.

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