Skills students help transform Stockton underpass

Creative students are bringing a splash of colour to a drab and dreary tunnel in desperate need of some brightening up.

While the work has just begun on the A66 underpass in Hartburn, pedestrians and cyclists from the surrounding community are already applauding the effort.

“For our students this is a fantastic blank canvas to showcase what they can do and see real positive results for their hard work,” said Christopher, a lecturer at The Skills Academy in Billingham who has been helping to lead the team.

“For most of our students this will be the first time they have seen their work displayed in such a public space and receive immediate feedback from the public.”

The students at The Skills Academy were invited to help transform the tunnel by Hartburn ward councillor Niall Innes. He said: “There have been some issues with antisocial behaviour and litter around the underpass, so we have been trying to think of innovative ways to repurpose it, make it a nicer focal point, and hopefully tackle some of the issues.

“I approached The Skills Academy, and the project took off at speed. Art has never been one of my strong points, so I am in awe of the work they have produced.”

For the group of around ten students, it has taken real elbow grease, creativity and determination.

Chris explained the underpass had to be cleaned and primed before any colour could be applied, so construction students lent a hand, working alongside the art, design and media team.

The underpass is lined with corrugated metal which added to the challenge, particularly when it came to creating straight lines.

Now into the summer break, the students have been giving their own time to complete the first section.

Islay, 16, said: “I was excited to get started on the project. I live nearby so I knew how big it was. I have been coming along during the holidays because I don’t want to leave it not done.”

William, 18, added: “I have never done anything like this before, so we have done lots of research into different artists’ work to help inspire our designs.”

Incorporating all their ideas, the final design covers a section at the entrance of the tunnel, featuring a burst of colour and, once complete, will include a profile of the Infinity Bridge.

William added: “Painting on corrugated metal seemed a bit impossible at first but it has been easier than I expected, and it is looking good.”

Already making plans for students joining The Skills Academy in September, the plan is for next year’s students to create a design for the other side of the underpass entrance and gradually work their way through.”

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