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Two new street art murals at TAFE Queensland’s Acacia Ridge campus have helped to add a splash of culture and colour to the trades-focused campus renowned for its world-class facilities and training.

The campus enlisted the skills of Brisbane raised and internationally recognised street artist Russell Fenn, otherwise known as Sofles. Russell is revered as one of Australia’s top graffiti artists who has travelled the world ten times over creating large scale murals whilst working for clients that include Amazon Prime, Culture Kings, Quicksilver, Universal Studios, Red Bull and Ironlak to name a few.

The first mural runs roughly 75 metres long up the driveway entrance to the campus and is interpretive in design, aimed to get TAFE students thinking as they enter the campus. The second mural is on an extraction tower and features a woman’s face and hands reaching outwards, sending abstract training tools and knowledge across the space.

TAFE Queensland – SkillsTech General Manager John Tucker said that he wanted the concept of the murals to represent the passing down of knowledge and skills, something that TAFE Queensland itself is well-known for.

“The concept really resonates with the TAFE Queensland brand and in particular the values that our teaching staff embrace. One of the greatest things about being a teacher is the ability to share and pass down knowledge and we think the murals really represent this message whilst improving the amenity of the campus,” Mr Tucker said.

“Our Certificate I in Construction (CPC10111) students also had the opportunity to be involved in the project as part of their Undertake a basic construction project subject, painting the base coat of one of the murals.”

“Seeing the final outcome really provided the students with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Even a claim to fame given the artist’s large notoriety,” he said.

Russell is also a previous TAFE Queensland student who studied animation and fine arts and said that his studies at TAFE really helped him to hone in on his creative talents and gain a broader knowledge of the art space.

“Studying at TAFE definitely helped me to further perfect my artistic skills. It also gave me an extra push to work in a more professional way,” Russel said.

Russell’s journey to international fame did however come with some interesting twists and turns. His first big break did in fact come through a brush with the law, and whilst it was a challenging time in the young artist’s life it also proved to be a turning point for his artistic career.

His love of creating beautiful art pieces across the Brisbane city landscape saw Russell end up in front in front of the courts on charges of graffiti. It was not a typical case with his lawyers arguing that Russell was not a typical graffiti artist, but in fact a professional artist with intentions to only beautify open spaces.

The local Brisbane media was quick to pick the story up which resulted in his artwork being splashed across television screens across the nation. The coverage brought the young artist advertising that money couldn’t buy and resulted in an extensive list of new clients wanting to hire him for his skills.

While Russell has achieved a great deal in his professional artistic career, he’s also happy to speak about some of the challenges that he’s faced along the way.

“I’ve gone through my own battle with anxiety and depression over the years and obviously during some of the times that I’ve gotten into trouble,” Russell said.

“I think the graffiti thing was a way that I could deal with this back then. It was like I could go and paint and be in my own little world and not have to worry about stuff. When I paint I can go to another place and my creativity was always that escape for me.”

“I realised over the years that you need to build tools around your own mental health to equip you to deal with challenging times in your life. As much as things can trigger you into getting depressed, you can also build tools to help trigger you out of it.”

“I know that when I’m starting to get dark or having bad thoughts that I can always check myself and ask, what am I doing here? Am I getting enough exercise, am I eating enough healthy food or am I painting enough?”

“I think people sometimes don’t realise that there are tools you can use to check yourself and it’s a really important message that we need to get out there,” he said.

The two murals have been now been completed and are a proud additional to the trade training campus. Russell is also keen to complete more works with TAFE Queensland in the future to help both beautify the campuses and to also share his experiences around mental health and possible coping mechanisms with the broader TAFE student base.


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