A 3D illusion art piece, titled The Vault, has captured the public’s imagination on Bedford High Street.
Located opposite Nando’s and adjacent to the high street bridge, the artwork was produced by international artist Julian Beever, in collaboration with Blank Walls.
The Vault depicts a local urban myth that a hidden treasure – a bank vault – is still buried underneath the site. The artwork included past Bedford high street workers and shoppers who used the bank in their daily life.
The charity Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) commissioned the work on behalf of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) cultural consortium.
The overall HSHAZ programme is led by Bedford Borough Council and funded by Historic England (£1.76m) and Bedford BID, as well as supported by SEMLEP and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
BCA’s programme producer Ami Aubrey described the public’s response to the artwork as ‘fantastic’. Ami said:
“There has been so much enthusiasm from the public as they walked by, and they were genuinely interested in finding out more.
“This is what we want to achieve, engagement with the public. Thanks to all our partners who have helped to fund the project and to promote it far and wide.
“We are really keen to tell the stories of the characters, Thomas (Thomazin) Lester the lace maker and Mary Pearson who was a baker working at 88 High Street. It’s such a big part of Bedford’s high street history.
“This is the start of a new High Street Heritage Action Zone delivery in Bedford and across other cities too, so watch this space for more art coming into the community.
“Bedford really has been a trailblazer for this project so we are really proud to have delivered it.”
Councillor Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, was similarly enthusiastic:
“It has been fantastic to see an international artist, Julian Beever, illustrating this piece of Bedford’s history and bringing our High Street’s heritage to life.
“This artwork is now there for everyone to see. Why not pop-in to town and experience it for yourself and visit some of our amazing and unique businesses, the beautiful Embankment and town centre whilst you’re there!”
To get the most from this 3D anamorphic artwork, it’s best viewed through a camera lens.
Passers by are encouraged to photograph the piece and share it on social media with their thoughts and using the hashtags #BedfordVault #HistoricHighStreets.
Historic England’s East of England regional director, Tony Calladine, said they were ‘delighted’ by the reception The Vault received over the bank holiday weekend:
“It’s great to see an internationally renowned artist out on Bedford high street, engaging residents in their local history in such an interactive way.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Bedford’s cultural programme, bringing to life the historic high street.”
The Vault project will also have a digital offering, thanks to Bedford BID, where the public can delve deeper into the stories and characters that make up the unique history of Bedford’s high street.
The Bedford community are encouraged to share any stories of shopkeepers or local characters from the area.
This will help build a rich collection of tales that will bring the high street to life and celebrate its relationship with local Bedfordians.
For more information, visit The Higgins’ website.
Julian Beever, The Vault’s creator, is an internationally renowned British artist.
He originally began pavement art as a busker, drawing in different countries such as the USA and Australia, to fund his travels.
Based in Perth, Australia, and London, Blank Walls specialises in street art commissions.