In 2008, this city decided to embrace street art. It was a beautiful decision.
In the heart of Glasgow, Scotland, you'll find a tiger, a few swimmers, a giant woman, and a pair of break-dancing puppets.
No, this isn't some sort of lucid fever dream. It's street art. And in Glasgow, it's given the city center an eye-catching face-lift.
While street art is now a common occurrence in Glasgow, that wasn't always the case.
Graffiti and urban blight began to creep into the city center during the 2008 economic downturn. The city council stepped in to promote public art as not only a way to clean up the city, but also an opportunity for local artists.
“The reason we promote murals is to brighten up drab and dark areas in the city, gable lanes, and other parts of buildings and also to deal with graffiti hotspots," said the Glasgow City Council group manager, Jane Laiolo, in a video about the project. "And it’s also an opportunity to develop artists from former graffiti artists in many cases to becoming small businesses in their own right.”
That's because local grants and scholarships help fund these large scale, dynamic projects that turn once dreary street corners, alleys, and walls into imaginative, delightful works of contemporary art.
"I try to do things that are fun and interesting,” said Smug, the artist behind many of the murals. “ I’m aiming for kids ‘cause everybody loves 'Toy Story'… Everybody loves 'The Simpsons.' It’s stuff that the kids like. It’s stuff that adults like. And not that I’m trying to be a people pleaser, but it’s stuff that I like as well.”
To make it easy for locals and tourists alike to experience the murals, the Glasgow tourism department put together a walking tour.
Tourists and locals can pick up detailed maps and follow the short route to see more than a dozen murals. It's a great way to experience the city and interact with many of the local shops, eateries, and residents at the same time.
While nothing beats the real thing, you can take a virtual walking tour through the Glasgow city center and check out 15 photos of the stunning pieces:
1. Never smile at "Crocodile Glesga" in Charring Cross.
Artist Klingatron took advantage of the environment and incorporated existing brickwork into the scales and used an area missing a brick for the eye.
2. Beard + Bird = One amazing mural.
3. Take off into the great unknown with Glasgow's "Space Man."
This colorful piece on Argyle Street is by Ali Wyllie and Recoat.
4. Or hitch a ride on the "World's Most Economical Taxi."
Muralist Rogue-one is the man behind this popular, charming mural. Those bricks behind the car? They were painted on an existing brick wall.
5. Sea creatures have a space in city center too. Be they tentacled....
6. Or speedo-ed, like these swimmers by artist Sam Bates (aka Smug) to celebrate the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
7. Smug also painted these murals that show off Glasgow's flora and fauna in all four seasons.
8. And don't worry about the giant woman in his "Honey I Shrunk the Kids." She promises to set you back down.
9. With some of the murals, it's hard to tell what's real and what's not.
10. But if you're lucky enough to see a zebra with a martini ... that's probably a work of delightful fiction. Probably.
11. Students of past and present dot the mural at the University of Strathclyde.
12. And this campus mural, dubbed "The Wonderwall" is a tribute to some of the school's great thinkers and incorporates three seven-story gables.
13. This gentleman is one of the "five faces" in a series of portraits done on pillars.
14. Ever seen a giant panda on an urban street corner? Now you have.
15. And what's street art without a street musician or two?
The street art of Glasgow inspires and enchants.
This project has brightened up the city and bolstered the artists in the best way.
“I think the general perception of all these murals is very positive," said muralist Rogue-one in a video about the project. "I think a lot of people are quite positive now. They come and say hello to me. Taxi drivers ... say they love them and there should be more of them."
And since some of the works are temporary, new art appears all the time. It's the perfect blend of surprise and delight ... and tigers. Can't forget tigers.