Today, 7 May, Wembley Park unveils the latest in its series of public art commissions for the area’s iconic Spanish Steps, which connect the national stadium with The SSE Arena, Wembley. The artwork, commissioned in collaboration with mental health charity Mind, and installed prior to the lockdown, aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, a topic that has only increased in importance since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artwork by North-East based spray can artist Frank Styles adorns the Spanish Steps with an abstract and thought-provoking design. A series of 12 portraits run down the steps; viewed from head-on, three of the portraits on each section of the stairs are visible, but the fourth can be seen only if you look over from the adjacent flight. Called, One in Four, the work symbolises that understanding mental health problems and how they can affect people sometimes requires a shift in perspective.
The collaboration originated as part of the English Football League (EFL) and Mind’s charity partnership which aims to raise awareness about mental health problems among football fans. With one in four people typically experiencing a mental health problem each year, raising awareness that we all have both physical and mental health to look after is an important part of the EFL and Mind’s work.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work takes on additional meaning as a great number of people throughout the country are likely to face detrimental effects to their mental health, whether because they have a sick relative, been ill themselves, are on the frontlines as a key worker, or simply because of the extended lockdown and concern for the situation at large. Football and other sports fans may also be feeling isolated because they are unable to connect with their established fan communities and social networks as live sporting events, and even the ability to meet and play sports, have been curtailed.
One in Four was installed at the beginning of March, and Wembley Park residents, as well as other people who live in the local area can enjoy the artwork while going to and from shops for necessities and while on their daily outings for exercise. The artwork will be on display in Wembley Park throughout the summer, as part of the area’s growing collection of outdoor public art commissions, including works from Mr. Doodle, Jason Bruges Studio, and miriamandtom, amongst many others.
James Saunders, Chief Executive Officer of Quintain, the developer behind the transformation of Wembley Park, said: "It's been a fantastic experience collaborating with Mind to commission the renowned street artist Frank Styles and raise awareness of an important social issue. Art has the ability to reveal untold stories and change public perceptions; something that feels more important and relevant than ever. While we encourage all of our residents and members of the local community to follow the government’s advice and stay home as much as possible, we are grateful to be able to bring this bold and bright work to the area and hope that its message will resonate with everyone and uplift them during this difficult time.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We know that football has the power to bring about real change, not least around perceptions of mental health. That’s why we’re so grateful to Wembley Park for giving us this unique platform to reach out to people, as part of our charity partnership with the EFL.
“We hope that Frank’s beautiful and thought-provoking piece will raise greater awareness about the one in four of us who experiences a mental health problem each year.”
EFL Chairman, Rick Parry said: “Throughout the two years of the EFL’s partnership with Mind, the EFL and its Clubs have worked collectively to improve the approach to mental health in football and wider society.
“In these unprecedented times, it is hugely important for all of us to continue to discuss our mental health and encourage conversations with those around us. The Spanish Steps mural is sure to capture the attention of local people, who can safely pass the installation, and to fans across digital platforms, and I hope provide an opportunity for many people to open up about their mental health.”
Creating large-scale artworks is a passion for artist Frank Styles. Some of his previous works cover up to 200 square meters. He expertly paints using small details to complete big artworks resulting in impactful imagery from a distance and close up. Styles has previously painted several murals for Sunderland Association Football Club (SAFC), his hometown team, including a mural as part of the EFL and Mind’s ‘Goals Worth Talking About’ campaign for World Mental Health Day 2019. He is also a personal advocate for changing the culture around mental health and raising awareness about mental health problems.
Styles said, “As both a football fan and someone who is passionate about mental health advocacy, it was great to work on this commission. Although it may be some time until football fans are able to return to Wembley Stadium, I’m glad that my work is still able to send a positive message.”
One in Four will be installed at Wembley Park’s Spanish Steps until the end of September 2020.