Last Thursday, interrupting the copy-paste tourist gift shops along Camden High Street was a group of buzzing party-goers overflowing onto the pavement. With free drinks in hand and excitement in the air, they were celebrating the opening of the Camden Open Air Gallery's (COAG) new space.
However the COAG is no stranger to the High Street. The community art project began simply with local street artists spray painting the shutters of businesses forced to close due to the pandemic's numerous lockdowns. The idea was always to give back to - and bring back - Camden's lively art scene and to create a platform for often overlooked graffiti and street artists. And now the COAG has a permanent place to do so beyond the pandemic which will boast a merch store featuring the work of local artists, a gallery, and a room for workshops nestled in the back.
Camden Town, notoriously known for its gritty culture and loud artistic flair, is often the subject of rejection from those who deem themselves to be from the "posher" side of life. But those that do miss out on the richness and diversity that the neighbourhood provides. However, a potent mix of gentrification, growing tourism and pandemic side effects are threatening to take away the raw expression that makes Camden Camden. And this is where the COAG steps in, celebrating and respecting graffiti culture and making art accessible for everyone, all while building community. In an interview for a zine handed out on opening night, COAG founder Finn Brewster explains, "the goal was to always shine a different light back onto Camden. But, it has now evolved into a community that I will always look out for in the future."
Community, art and space for all; the COAG is here to remind Camden who it is.
Visit the Camden Open Air Gallery at 216 Camden High Street NW1 0NE | https://www.camdenopenairgallery.com | @camdenoag