When creativity hits the wall.

At TOTEM we are a team of creative problem solvers. Our clients come to us with business issues and we find innovative solutions. Our creative director Colin Byrne, recently decided to take this approach a few steps further, to tackle not a client problem, but a community one – transforming this integral part of the Waterford Greenway, into a stunning must-see urban artwork.

Below we talk to him about the recent unveiling of the captivating new mural by artist Curtis Hylton, ‘Birds in flight’ – what the inspiration behind the project was and why he decided to spear-head it…

I suppose first and foremost, this has stemmed from a huge pride in Dungarvan and Waterford. I returned to my hometown to set up TOTEM and was saddened to see the damaging impact that the last recession had on the local economy.

But in recent years the town has gone from strength to strength. It has done more than just recover; it’s thriving. The Waterford Greenway has transformed the area and there’s been an explosion of arts, culture, heritage and gastronomy events.

For me, the motivation for the project was out of the frustration I felt every time I looked at, or had to pass through, Abbeyside Bridge. It was overgrown and run down – a bit of a dark space at night that was attracting some anti-social behaviour.

Abbeyside Bridge - Greenway

It was not the welcome we wanted to give to the thousands of new visitors passing under it on the Waterford Greenway as they entered Dungarvan for the first time. And it certainly wasn’t the last image we wanted them to leave with.

The Greenway represents the best of Waterford and I felt the bridge was letting the side down.  Then one day we were talking about our approach for creatively solving problems and how it could be applied to any type of issue – not necessarily just branding – and I thought you know what… I’m going to try and do something about Abbeyside bridge.

I’m a huge fan of the Waterford Walls Festival, the international street art festival that brings some of the top street artists to Waterford every year, to transform the city into an incredible outdoor gallery.

I really admire their use of art to rejuvenate urban areas and create inspiring spaces. So I approached The Walls Project to see if it would be possible to bring them to Dungarvan and the Waterford City and County Council to see if they’d be happy to be patrons of the project too.

As well as transforming the space through artwork, I also wanted to make it a safer space for locals – for the people that pass through daily on their way to work or on their way home with their shopping. Particularly in the darker winter months. So, I approach Shanley Industrial Engineering Ltd who designed a fantastic lighting solution for the bridge, that would work to compliment the artwork.

street graffiti

And then, we were fortunate to have Curtis Hylton of The Walls Project, to come on board as our artist. He is incredibly talented and hugely passionate about biodiversity, with a style that merges wildlife with botanicals. Curtis often uses his spaces to make bold statements focused on highlighting the importance of protecting native habitats and species, like our Irish Honey Bee.

As you approach the bridge now, your attention is immediately captured by the vibrant, bold and colourful images of local birds, like the chaffinch, blue tit and little egret. And as you walk underneath, that feeling of foreboding is gone and replaced by awe, as lights installed by Shanley Industrial Engineering Ltd illuminate Curtis’s stunning ceiling artwork of a of a sky going from dawn to dusk filled with silhouettes of birds in flight.

Sponsors sign

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to bring The Walls Project to the west of the county and to have been part of transforming Abbeyside bridge into something that creates the right first impression of our thriving town.

It has been a project that has been a full year in the making, with so many people and organisations locally lending their support to help make it happen.

I have to say a huge thank you to our sponsors Centra Nugents, The Cliff House Hotel, Cork Airport, The Moorings, The Tannery and 360 Cookhouse – without their generosity this simply would not have happened. And to our other supporters Cass & Co, IQ Branding, Merrys Gastro Pub and the Shanahan Family.

It means a lot to see the project come to fruition and it feels like we’ve all created something special together, that creates the right first impression of our vibrant town. I think it shows what can be achieved when communities, local businesses and the arts come together to creatively tackle problems.

Abbeyside Bridge Mural
Abbeyside Bridge Mural