Banksy may have put street art in the news, but he’s not the only designer creating huge pieces to brighten up local communities and attract art lovers in droves.
Less than an hour from Edinburgh, the communities of Cowdenbeath and Glenrothes are home to a fascinating series of murals depicting the personality and people of the area.
They are the work of renowned artist Kerry Wilson, who was commissioned by Fife Council and other community groups to create these huge talking points. Many people combine talking and walking, as they weave around the route to follow – for others it’s a photo-guided tour around Scotland’s mural trails that entices them to search for each of them. Visit at different times of day or seasons to see how the art changes with the weather and light.
Artist Kerry, who comes from Kirkcaldy, doesn’t describe herself as a street artist or graffiti artist, as she works in many mediums, but her spray-painting mural technique was entirely self-taught, she says, to follow the children in her first job as a youth worker at age 19.
Over the years, she honed her skills, becoming a full-time freelance artist 10 years ago and working on her first giant mural, Wee Miner Boy, five years ago when she was 32.
All of her murals feature young children, which she says comes from her experience working with young people, her sense of community, and her eye for future generations.
She said: “When you do things for the community, they often want something historic, reflecting heritage. When I was a younger artist, I didn’t appreciate how important it was to people, so it was a learning curve for me, how to make them relevant to people’s stories and to the coming.
Feedback has, she said, been largely positive and there is hope for more murals in Fife in the future.
Working on such a giant canvas is not without its challenges, but as a former volunteer theater designer, Kerry has taken it to heart.
Before the murals of which it was a part the shutter art project, in collaboration with the local council, the community council and the school. Kerry turned a dull “closed for business” look into something dynamic. His work was transformational – now, when shops are closed on weekends or in the evening, the streets still seem welcoming and colourful, often illustrating the purpose of the shop during the day.
Take the Cowdenbeath Tourist Trail
The first piece created in Brunton Square near the police station was the Wee Miner Boy mural, celebrating the area’s mining heritage, where a youth wearing a mining helmet and oversized mining boots stands before the industrial landscape of the past. The original commission for the wall was a giant mosaic, but after months of consultation with the community, they settled on the idea for the mural.
Kerry added, “I wanted to do something modern, not stuffy, but still ticking the box for people who wanted to pay homage or were sentimental. I wanted it to be relevant to everyone.
The High Street is also home to the Lucie Anderson mural, Kerry’s first work featuring a true local, the daughter of a local shopkeeper. Lucie, then eight years old, is seen picking flowers from the 30-foot-tall painting.
The most recent creation is officially called Boy with Lego Cars, but is known to everyone as Toy Story. This image of a little boy playing with his Lego trucks will bring a smile to everyone’s face, and Kerry is thrilled that he’s not only popular, but has found his own identity in the city.
In Glenrothes, street art created by generations of talent adorns underpasses and bridges, transforming concrete walkways into mural art galleries, while sculptures from the creation of the New Town to the present day provide unexpected gems around every corner.
Don’t miss the 170 pieces of a culture trail, including the hippos of Riverside Park, the tree hill of Caskieberran, the poetry circles of Auctmuchty and the giant eagle of Pittecheur.
Although Cowdenbeath and Glenrothes have proud industrial roots, they make for a great day out in the lesser known parts of Fife.
Lochore Meadows, (add link to https://active.fife.scot/locations/lochore-meadows near Cowdenbeath, is Fife’s most popular free attraction and it’s not hard to see why, as it is packed with outdoor activities for all ages and try your hand at water sports (there’s even a beach) or go walking, cycling, paddling, playing or picnicking – there’s plenty to do.
Don’t forget to visit Cowdenbeath’s famous son, Slim Jim, and have your photo taken with the statue of Rangers and Scotland favorite Jim Baxter.
Near Glenrothes, Balbirnie Park is a magnet for nature lovers, with 416 acres of wildlife to explore. With a wooded garden and park, some of which are wheelchair accessible, this lush green space is a wellness staple. Riverside Park is also worth a visit, especially in its stunning fall colors.
Outlander fans will also want to fit in a visit to nearby Falkland Palace – once home to the Stuart monarchs, it’s now a familiar TV location.
To the south of Fife is Scotland’s newest town, Dunfermline, which is full of museums and galleries to enjoy. This former royal borough takes its history from King Malcolm and dear Saint Margaret, and you can follow in the footsteps of kings through the streets and parks. It was also the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, a millionaire philanthropist whose name is still synonymous with libraries across the country.
Finally, Fife’s other famous son, artist Jack Vettriano, whose early years exhibition is on display at the Kirkcaldy Galleries until 23 October 2022.