A new collaboration between Kingston School of Art and the Kingston First business improvement district (BID) is brightening up the town centre amid Autumn’s shortening days and more general gloom surrounding the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vacant retail units in the town centre have been transformed into canvases on which the art students have installed beautiful, colourful designs including depictions of key workers that remain on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Kingston First described the project as “thought provoking imagery (for) the town centre’s vacant retail units to delight and inspire residents, employees and visitors alike in Kingston.”

Coronavirus has caused footfall in the town centres of the UK to plummet as people continue to protect themselves and each other from spreading the virus by staying at home more of the time.

Nevertheless, Kingston First said that footfall numbers in Kingston have “steadily increased” lately, with Kingston “often performing better than Greater London and the rest of the UK.”

A spokesperson added:

“In a sign of consumer confidence returning in the London borough, September footfall numbers averaged at -19 per cent year on year, compared to the national average of -35 per cent and -44 per cent in Greater London.”

The flip side of this however has been the increase in vacancy rates for businesses in town, which have “continued to rise by 3 per cent” Kingston First said, leading to the vacant store fronts now being used in the art project.

Claire Selby, commercial projects manager at Kingston School of Art’s newly created creative agency said she and her team are “thrilled to collaborate with Kingston First and for our students to be given such a public showcase.”

“Kingston Canvas will transform vacant shop fronts – instead of blank spaces, shoppers and visitors will be taking in works made by up and coming creatives. This project is a great demonstration of our commitment to developing sought after students and providing them with public platforms to display their talent, especially in such challenging times,” she added.

Natálie Barešová’s striking image captures her walking route from Kingston to Kingston School of Art through Fairfield Recreation Ground and was one the first designs to be displayed on Clarence Street.

“I walk to University every day through Fairfield Park and have been really inspired by the scenery and how it changes through the seasons,” the 21 year old from Prague explained.

“In autumn the leaves started to fall down and change colour - It’s such a unique place, with so many activities and people visiting. There were days I didn’t want the walk into class to end, it was so beautiful.”

Josephine Miller’s sculpture Surreal Swans was also featured: “I usually see massive groups of swans all along the river in Kingston, they are very symbolic for many Kingston residents. Therefore, I wanted to find a way to interpret them into my art style into a 3D sculpture.” the 21 year old from Surrey said.