Aida Wilde is an internationally renowned and recognised printer and street artist. Working within some of the most pressing conversations of our time - notably issues of gentrification, education & equality - Aida has spent almost two decades establishing herself as a central voice within the street art scene.
As an academic, Aida has held positions as an associate lecturer and course director and continues to educate as facilitator within various workshops and community projects through Print is Power – Reclamation Nation and Sisters In Print, an all female international print collective.
We spoke with Aida on her career, her impact, and her inspirations.
Q: You are an icon of the street art scene - how did you first step into that world?
A: Ha ha ha Icon! Where the hell did you hear that rumour! Not sure how that’s come about but I’ll roll with it for now.
But in all honesty, I really did fall into it… Accidentally, and it’s progressed very serendipitously in a steady and organic way up until now.
I had a hand printed clothing business in Brick Lane around the mid 2000’s and met a lot of up and coming street artists who I hung around and worked with on their screen prints. There were a couple of them that I was close to & collaborated with who encouraged me to put my work out. I used to do a lot of slogan t-shirts and pop imagery which lent themselves well to being turned into paste-ups etc, and the rest is history. The nature and purpose of the work has shifted quite a bit since then but I still get a buzz from putting things out when it means something.
Q: What has been your experience of being a woman in the street art space?
A: I think when I started out, there wasn’t pressure to perform as there is now - Street Art wasn’t a feasible “career option” so I guess there was more room and less competition and this applies to all genders in this field. I believe there was more unity and in my experience the men were quite nurturing… well until you rose above them that is ha.
In saying that, my first lesson was a hard one on how to occupy that space, and one that I will never forget. I’d been given a date to install some work in a massive show but somehow, I had missed some memo and when I turned up, most of the spots had been already taken up by the male artists in the show - I made the most of it but BIG lesson learnt!
Since then, I have made sure to speak up, claim my spot, occupy and fill my spot, demand for my spot and make clear what spot I need and want. It took me a while to understand and get into the street art mentality and sometimes it has been a case of “it’s better not to ask”- just do it and see the reaction.
But as the scene evolves and we progress, the numbers grow and more and more options become open up to us, this has obviously had a huge impact in terms of being noticed & considered for projects and street art festivals. The competition and talent is fierce out there.
And of course, the rise of street art agencies, curators, galleries/museums and festivals has had a huge impact on the scene to further highlight the inequality and disparages of the gender balance in what’s shown and is being promoted.
You only need to look at the major auction houses to see which artists works come up for sale under the “Street Art” umbrella. There are two questions to consider from this, with one of them being: why aren’t there more female street artists who have risen to stardom, and investable & bankable levels yet? Is it a fault of our own? Is it the galleries, museums, investors, publications, festivals? We need to question this now. There is a major imbalance and we have a long way to go by the looks of it.
Going back to the word “Space” & “Us”, this has also evolved when you’re talking about legal or with permission opportunities etc. with regards to the rise of wall brokers and space providers. At a closer examination, the gender inequity is vast with most projects; we are averaging 20-30%, at a push, of the overall line-ups.
So in a nutshell, it’s been very fucking hard - a long ass bumpy road.
Q: You founded female collective Sisters in Print, and social change project Print is Power - can you tell us about your role as an educator and facilitator?
A: I was very fortunate to have been asked to cover some evening classes in screen printing at the London College of Communication only after a couple of years of graduating from there. Many evenings, days and courses later I ended up teaching on the Surface Design programme that I had actually received my degree from, and I was in academia for almost 15 years in total. I even ended up being a course director of the Foundation for Applied Arts at one point - it was a great achievement for me at the time as I’d only been out of Uni for 5 years and a head of a course in a major arts university. But I knew in order for me to be an effective and progressive lecturer I also needed to develop and continue my own design and print practice, which I did all throughout and I am so glad that I trusted my gut because UAL decided to close our successful course after 20 years in 2015 which left many of us redundant. I do miss nurturing new talent some days.
Print is Power was set up at the tail end of 2012 - it was a direct response to the rapid gentrification of where I live/work in Hackney Wick, which is very near the home of the London Olympics. I launched the self-funded project officially in a local art festival we had called Hackney Wicked in 2013, where I’d made several mobile screen print stations; with the support of my friends and printer buds we took it out into a couple of public venues over the weekend of the festival, a big hit with the public and free to participate, and this still remains the ethos of the project to this day even though it has evolved into many guises. The aim of the project is to empower and provide a voice for to express thoughts and creativity through the medium of print and art. The project has taken me to the most wonderful of places, working with amazing people, like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the William Morris Gallery, UNITE, Hong Kong Walls and the Academy of fine arts Vienna and many more. We have printed and made art works with thousands of people so I’m really grateful for this rewarding experience. I set up Sisters In Print in 2016 to try and bring womxn print-makers and creatives together to share and collaborate and to see if we could work and create with solidarity in the spirit of the female only print workshops/collectives during the 70’s & 80’s... And the final answer was a simple no & I will park that there for now.
Q: As an artist and social commentator, where do you draw your inspirations?
A: EVERYTHING… Apart from contemporary artists. Prefer most of the dead ones personally. The truth of it is that some of my best ideas have come from simple conversations with friends or crazy nights out.
Check out Aida discussing her anti-gentrification mural, in collaboration with the BUILDHOLLYWOOD family of JACK, JACK ARTS and DIABOLICAL for their Your Space Or Mine project.