Who we are and what we do

The Art & Soul Traders are a multi-award winning cooperative of experienced and dedicated artists, promoters and facilitators with backgrounds in murals, community art, filmmaking, event organisation, music, photography, and graphic design. Our portfolio includes commissions for domestic, commercial and community projects.

The Art & Soul Traders are a not profit-driven CIC (Community Interest Company) and was founded in 1998 by Mark E.W. Lewis who has been a self-employed, self-taught muralist since 1988. Mark and the team have covered over 300 murals worldwide to date yet mainly concentrate on our home city of Portsmouth and the south coast of England.

We have also organised some of the most successful events in Victoria Park in its 135-year history. The story unfolds from a teenage dream of Marks to be part of a real grassroots arts/music hub in the community and after many years of battles in 2002 art in the park was born. Mark took on the capital fundraising in 2000 and the restoration in 2001 – 2002 to save the derelict gatekeeper’s lodge in Victoria Park and to transform it into a community arts and music venue with Fairtrade cafe to provide access to the arts for all whilst offering park users a unique and friendly creative place to eat healthily, drink and relax in a beautiful open green space.

Even though over 10,000 people signed our petition and every Councillor from every party voted to keep us at the Arts Lodge sadly we lost our cultural hub on the 7th Feb 2017 due to seriously wrong decisions by our local council which created enormous controversy that saw one of the biggest debates our city has seen and where the smoke still has not dispersed fully. The dream they promised has turned into a nightmare where the new tender are offering only 5% of what we did and only paying the council £2200 a year where we paid £10,000. The backlash saw the Tory council leader losing her job and the whole party losing control of the council and splitting up. The local LibDems campaigned vigorously for us in 2016 and Cllr Steve Pitt made his passionate maiden speech pleading to full council to keep us there, and since have promised to reinstate us after the new 5 year lease runs out… So you never know we could be back there one day soon?

You can read more about this on our other pages, news articles and documents on this website.

Our goals

  • To pass on our wealth of experience in workshops and teaching to the next generation
  • To create a living wage for our artists and train and employ new up and coming artists
  • To renovate and regenerate lasting improvements to urban regeneration areas and buildings in a main public place
  • To raise the quality and improve the standard of the group, encouraging and promoting learning for people throughout their lifetime and to improve creativity and innovation through work with experts
  • To promote and raise awareness of the Arts and social issues by supporting community-based initiatives and campaigns
  • To promote and advertise nationally and internationally artwork being created by local artists locally and via our website and social media
  • Campaign and work towards finding and renovating a new arts venue/ cultural hub in our city