While we are all advised to stay home to save lives, this does not apply to key workers who keep heading to their jobs to ensure the nations are able to keep on functioning. At the same time, the pandemic has changed what we collectively consider key work, emphasizing jobs such as retail work, teaching, social care, and delivery as essential to the wider functioning of society.
The street artist collective The Postman will exhibit York’s first urban art project which will elevate and honor pandemic key workers. Brought by Art of Protest Projects and The York BID, The Guardians of York seeks to celebrate these people who continue to keep the city in motion.
For the whole duration of the pandemic, employees in many key industries are suffering burnout, financial troubles, and the prospect of catching Covid-19 while at work. For Guardians of York, eleven York-based key workers were interviewed and told their account of these hardships. These included an ICU doctor, ICU nurse, postal worker, teacher, street cleaner, retail worker, rescue boat patrol, and more.
The Postman artists took their photos and turned them into colorful, urban portraits which will be applied in large format onto the city walls of York. As Andrew Lawson of The York Bid said, "it will add a splash of color to the city, whilst reminding the public of those local heroes who have worked hard to keep us all safe."
Brenna Allsuch, one of the key workers who participated in the project said:
Telling my story in such a real and raw way has helped me to understand the weight of this year, and to reflect on all the highs and lows. Beyond that, it’s made me feel like I’m part of a community, a collective of people that have not stopped going.
The Postman was born in Brighton in 2018 when two people met by chance and discovered a shared love for street art. Their work is inspired by their passion for photography and iconic imagery, but also a love for music and pop culture. Their roots in graffiti culture are evident in their unique style.
Mainly created in the streets, The Postman's work is ephemeral, creating a buzz as people seek them out before they disappear. Characterized by positive and inclusive nature, these works allow people from diverse communities to see themselves represented and heard.
Regarding the York project, The Postman commented:
As the project builds momentum, we realize more and more how important it is to tell the stories of the people behind the masks. The key workers that have carried us through the last year, inspired us and made a difference to everybody’s lives.
Resident Suzie Fox said it is "amazing what these guys are doing, honoring the city’s workers that kept going to their jobs, despite the risks to them and their families. Making everyday people feel like the superheroes that they became."
The The Guardians of York projject will be on view on the streets of York from April 9th until July 9th, 2021, purposefully (and hopefully) coinciding with the relaxation of lockdown measures and non-essential business.
Featured image: From Guardians of York (detail).