Robert Jackson's Industrial Readymades, on display at Oxfam, Walthamstow High Street. Photograph: Paul Coomey
Robert Jackson’s Industrial Readymades, on display at Oxfam, Walthamstow High Street. Photograph: Paul Coomey

Tolstoy said that art is “a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for…life and progress”. E17 Art Trails takes this concept and runs with it. The tenth anniversary of the independent artist-run festival kicked off at the end of last month with a union of the very best art Walthamstow has to offer.

Part of a wider movement towards showcasing local art in the place of its creation and discovering artists among us, this is an event that is truly inclusive of the entire community, forging a dialogue between locals, artists and businesses. The theme this year is ‘Inhabit’, focusing on integration and urban development. East London is sympathetic to the growth of new against the old – a point that will be explored in audio trails, bus tours and a spotlight on heritage.

This project will explore both where and how we live, who we really are and where we came from through open houses, walking tours and installations. Highlights will include: 15 Day Forest, which will build a forest from visitors’ leaf creations; the photographic exhibition Underpass Distractions, documenting life in the slow lane; and 15 Upper Walthamstow Road, an open house that will display the works of Sharon Drew, Josh Berry and Mark Sowden. This year the festival has expanded to include food pop-ups, an exciting new venture that will feature local and organic suppliers.

The festival is a platform for E17 and Waltham Forest artists, placing East London firmly on the artistic map. Three E17 alumni were this year listed for the Aesthetica Art Prize, testament to the influence of the festival that kickstarted the careers of artists showcased there, building them local audiences.

Curator Paula Van Hagen says: “This is fundamentally an artist-led project, mapping E17 and celebrating the work of artists who live in our community. E17 Art Trail is probably the largest open access arts festival in Europe that deals in visual arts.  It’s not about formal spaces, it’s about open houses: now a worldwide movement that has its roots here. This festival is all thanks to the incredible local support.”

E17 Art Trail is blazing the way for the future of local art. There is something to be marvelled at by adults and children alike in every corner of the trail – a community adventure of art on our doorstep.

E17 Art Trail runs in various locations across the E17 postcode until 15 June. 

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