How I become an International muralist and Social Entrepreneur
In the following years, I continued working as a muralist and community campaigner and my work took me to many places in the UK and abroad. My murals are particularly well known in the south of England and I have also painted murals in France, Egypt, Thailand, India and Brazil. The murals are commissioned by organisations, councils, and businesses including hotels and private individuals.
By the year 2000, my childhood dream of creating an arts centre where other community artists could work, and where free workshops could be offered to the community, started to come into fruition.
I found a building and negotiated with the local council. It was derelict and facing to demolition, and needed approximately £70,000 capital funding to be renovated – but the location was perfect. It was in a Victorian-era park in the centre of Portsmouth… so ART IN THE PARK was born.
I then raised the necessary funding for the renovation, project managed the transformation and enlisted the help of many local volunteers. By the summer of 2002 the centre was up and running the Art & Soul Traders became a not for profit company and the building project won the Portsmouth Society’s Best Renovation Award 2003.
The centre undertook hundreds of community murals, free workshops, and courses in painting, graphic design, music, film-making, drama, website design, and radio production. There was also a café and gallery space for local artists to exhibit their work and licensed bar for evening events including film, live performance, comedy and music. Additionally, we run free events in the park, attracting up to 5,000 people. The last 17 years we reached over 70,000 people and created over £4 million for our city including micro businesses, community development projects whilst clocking up over 120,000 volunteer hours.
We run as a Community Interest Company Co-Op as we believe in our members benefiting from their work and having a voice in the overall running of the organisation. We also believe everyone is entitled to learn new skills for life and be offered the opportunity to reach their full potential. I have initiated most of our mural projects, courses, workshops, and events and apply for funding and grants to ensure that the most is achieved from restricted budgets. I employ and manage staff and volunteers (5–45) and also deal with marketing our cultural hub. Other duties include administration, finance, Health & Safety, Equal Opportunities, Child Protection, Charity Law and Committee procedures.
Having won numerous awards including regional inspirational leader (Social Entrepreneur) and feature regally in the local media for my work with the community in the Portsmouth area. Enjoying my work and integrity are very important to me as I am very self-motivated, discreet, honest and enthusiastic with many years experience, I am self-disciplined and very hard working either alone or in larger self-directing teams, with a track record of making positive create projects happen with little resources whilst achieving real change in our community.
Mark E.W. Lewis