A bright new piece of street art could soon appear in York.
A giant mural of a tansy beetle – a brilliant green beetle known as the Jewel of York – is set to become a new landmark on Queen Street, close to the city walls and railway station.
After launching a search for a suitable location for a large scale eco-artwork in York’s city centre earlier this year a site has now been confirmed by environmental charity New Networks for Nature.
Amy-Jane Beer, a North Yorkshire nature writer, is coordinating the project on behalf of environmental charity, New Networks for Nature. She said:
It’s a perfect location. The tansy beetle is as special to York as our unique built heritage, and we can’t wait for visitors to discover it as they tour the city.
‘Vibrant and interesting’
New Networks for Nature has commissioned the artwork as a legacy of a major nature conference, Time for Nature, to be held in York in October.
The conference will feature leading writers, artists, musicians inspired by nature and advocates for wildlife including Chris Packham, the presenter of BBC Autumnwatch.
The York BID (Business Improvement District) has helped to fund the project. Executive director Andrew Lowson said:
Our business plan talks about supporting street art in York.
City centres have to be vibrant and interesting places to attract people; this piece of art is certainly that and has a story that is unique to York, one we should highlight.
Organisers are using the online funding platform Crowdfunder to raise the £3,000 needed to make the mural a reality. They are looking to individuals and business to get behind and sponsor this ambitious project.
Planning permission isn’t required, as it comprises only ‘surface decoration’ and has no commercial intent and no message that might be construed as branding. Even so, organisers say they chose the location carefully so that the work will complement its setting.
So far they have received generous pledges from businesses – including Clarrie O’Callaghan, owner of the Rattle Owl restaurant, who made a donation to mark the forthcoming opening of a new bar on her premises, aptly called The Tansy Beetle.
If funding is secured the plan is for painting to begin at the end of September. It will be created by celebrated street artist ATM, who specialises in huge paintings of endangered species.
His work already adorns towns and cities and nature reserves around the country. He said:
Beetles are so often overlooked because they are small. But they are of vital importance for healthy ecosystems everywhere, and their sudden and serious decline throughout Europe is major cause for concern.
The tansy beetle is such a rare creature, and as one of its only strongholds in Britain is the York area, it is the perfect subject for a striking and vibrant piece of public art.
“When we bought the house on Queen Street I always thought it would be great to have something on the side but I never thought we would be lucky enough to have such an amazing piece of art and for such a good cause as raising awareness for the tansy beetle,” she said.
The tansy beetle
Until recently, this startlingly beautiful insect faced extinction in the UK and our flood-prone river banks were the only place in the country that the species was known to survive.
The recovery of the tansy beetle is thanks to efforts of the Tansy Beetle Action Group, spearheaded by local conservationists Geoff and Roma Oxford, in collaboration with Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust.
Following habitat improvements, including the planning of lots of golden-flowered, aromatic tansy, the beetles began to thrive alongside River Ouse in such numbers that some could be spared to supply a reintroduction effort in the Cambridgeshire fens.
“The tansy beetle is a species of which York can be rightly proud,” says Dr Beer, “We want this piece of artwork to be a new landmark for York in more ways than one – a celebration of the amazing success of local conservation, and a timely reminder that nature has a rightful place in our city.”
Photograph © Geoff Oxford on Wikimedia