After a trip to the Tate Modern in London, we headed over to meet a friend at Kings College. We walked over the elegant, sinuous Millennium Bridge. Itâ€™s has been a couple of years since our last visit and this time we noticed that everyone was looking down and pointing, not the sort of thing you expect to see in the middle of this busy thoroughfare.Â The once magnificent, pristine bridge has definitely aged.
The metal rungs of the bridge are now the repository for discarded chewing gum. Itâ€™s a bit shocking to see the how little regard people have for their cityâ€™s icons. I am always surprised that so many people do not consider discarded cigarette butts and chewing gum as destructive litter.
The silver lining however is that Artist Ben Wilson, aka The Chewing Gum Man, apparently a regular sight on the bridge, takes these disgusting remnants of peopleâ€™s chewing gum and turns them into mini works of art.
Many of the pieces are commissioned by tourists and locals commemorating their visit or someone in their lives. The intricate paintings can take hours to make.
Ben likes to create art that means something to the people who ask for it. This was a tribute to victims of the Japanese Tsunami.
This image shows people on the bridge looking at Ben’s artwork andÂ St Paul’s Cathedral at the end of the Millennium Bridge axis.
Itâ€™s the endless possibility of patterns that seems to excite Benâ€™s creative mind. As Ben explains â€œsometimes I can look at the shape and I can see what I want to createâ€¦the gum gets stuck between the tread and takes on an echo or a form of the bridge.â€( quote is from (image from Inspiring City)
The Millennium Bridge has now become an experiential, free, outdoor art gallery. In his words, about painting onto discarded chewing gum, â€œitâ€™s not criminal damageâ€ he tells me â€œthe chewing gum is already there Iâ€™m just transforming it into something beautiful that people would like to look at.â€ (Quote is from Inspiring City)).
This may be the ultimate expression of â€˜taking lemons and making lemonadeâ€™. Ben Wilson has taken trash and turned it into an amazing interactive tourist attraction.Â Now if he could only turn his hand to those cigarette butts. (The 3 image above are from Inspiring City)