LEGAL graffiti walls in Glasgow could break the stigma around street art and lead to “mutual understanding” with the public, a campaigner has said.

There are an estimated 229 spots across the UK where artists can practice their skills – but Scotland’s biggest city isn’t one of them.

With a buzzing art scene in Glasgow, street artist Panda McGlone has been campaigning for legal art walls to be introduced for years. After a recent motion was brought forward on the topic by SNP and Green councillors, McGlone is hopeful that a change in approach from the local authority is on the cards.

As director of non-profit Colour Ways, which supports street artists, McGlone, known as OhPanda, has seen his work and that of other artists he had commissioned being removed “arbitrarily” without any discussion with the local communities.

In 2019, the city council spent a whopping £649,914 on painting over graffiti in public spaces, the highest amount spent by any local authority across the UK.

The National: Legal graffiti walls ‘could break stigma’

But a new approach is on the horizon. There is talk of bringing in legal walls not just in the city centre but in local communities too.

The city boasts a mural trail, where the local authority commissions artists to create photo-realistic impressions to revitalise gable ends, but for budding street artists, there is nowhere public for them to practice, unlike in Edinburgh and Dundee, where spaces have been created for them.

He said: “Right now, we have that archetypal trope of the bad vandal with his hood up, cutting about the streets at night and doing something bad.

“Unfortunately, that is the way people have to create their work because it is vilified.

“It has changed a lot, but a lot of the artists themselves have internalised that, and there’s a lot of fear. They don’t want to go out during the day because historically, it has been really frowned upon.”

Legal graffiti walls would allow the artists to address this, as they would be in public, McGlone added.

He said: “It means people are able to walk by, speak to the artist and realise they’re normal people, who are nice, and you find out why people do it. That’s really important because you need that connection and mutual understanding. It works both ways.”

McGlone pointed out that without safe spaces for artists to practice, they are pushed into isolation and a “self-affirming culture”.

The 32-year-old also said he believes that legal walls would open up the scene to diversity and make it safer to take part.

He explained: “It’s because people aren’t able to just go out and paint in a safe public space.

“It’s unlikely that a young person is going to go out in the middle of the night to paint because it’s dangerous, the same with women and queer-identifying people.

“The city doesn’t feel like a safe space at night, but when you do create those safe spaces, you will quickly notice an uptake in a much wider diversity of people creating artwork in the city.

“That has a knock-on effect where more people feel represented and can see artwork that represents them.

“The increase of the enjoyment of it will hopefully change people’s opinions and attitudes towards street art.”