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The artist who cannot be defined - Meet Roland Burt

Roland Burt is a man who wears many hats, from being a business to mentoring children to being an active part in helping small businesses to being an influential artist.
Roland Burt
Photo: John Baker

 

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Roland Burt in his temporary workshop. Mustafa Hussain

“I often struggle to define myself"

"I wouldn’t dare to try, many people make assumptions about who Roland is or who Roland should be but I don’t really fit into any box”

“Sometimes I'm everything to everyone all in one go”  he says


Roland can currently be found at Van Hage Garden Centre and Up the Garden Bath in Westgate, and is part of those providing input as the city looks to create a Cultural Strategy.

But he first arrived in the city in 2016 after hosting international exhibitions in countries in including Eastern Europe.

“One of my first major exhibitions was in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was working in education at the time and Bulgaria was about to enter the EU.

“They had a red mark against their education system and as educator myself I thought 'how could I help?'

“I spoke to my bosses and long story short I actually talked to the President of Bulgaria and got him on board with a new policy of education.

“I soon started working with children out in Bulgaria and used my artwork to connect with them”

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Bulgarian Newspaper talks about Roland Burt's exhibition. Supplied

“I then held an exhibition and sold a lot of my artwork to help support a girl I had grown close with who suffered from Cerebral Palsy”

Despite this huge success abroad when Roland arrived into Peterborough he faced an upward struggle in selling his art work until he found his big break in the reception area of NatWest bank.

“I often got told my art is not sellable” he said.

“I remember it was a rainy Thursday, I had just been rejected from a place and as I was making my way through the high street I saw a sign in front of the now closed visitors centre that read ‘we support local artists.

“I went in and within five minutes I had secured a contract to sell my artwork. I was over the moon and the people at the centre told me i required a business account.

“So I walked next door into NatWest and little did I know they had opened up their reception area for local businesses so as I was setting up my account the manager asked me to do my first exhibition in the reception area”

Roland Burt
Roland has been supported by local businesses and residents of Peterborough. Supplied

“On my first day I handed out 80 business cards and a lot of people came back to buy art or set up commissions”

This spectacular turn of events gave Roland a huge boost of confidence in regards to selling his artwork and encouraged him to carry on.


“In 2017 I started my business ‘Djibo Art’ in lobbies garden centre.

“The name Djibo means of many lights and actually comes from my childhood as it is what my parents used to call me because i never stopped smiling. So the name is homage to both my parents”

Roland's childhood continued to play a part in his evolution as an artist as he continued on to say: “My artwork is about stories from my past.

“My grandparents used to tell me stories and as a child I had this ability to put into form these stories.but these stores are relatable to everyone which is the magic of art. It's subjective and anybody can relate and create and that’s what I aim to get across.

“When a child who struggles to communicate realises they can use art as a form of expression you can see the excitement within them”

This expression through art is a skill that is nurtured by Roland in his many workshops around the city.

“I run these workshops so some kids who may be struggling can come here and experiment, create and most importantly be themselves.

“These workshops are not serious like some art classes, I aim to keep them light and fun.

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Children are encouraged to use regular items to express themselves. Mustafa Hussain

“We have music on in the background the children get involved and help each other out and they utilise out of the box tools such as forks and combs in order to express themselves and create amazing pieces of art”

“My art is not about me nor is it about putting myself in the spotlight. It's about holding out my hand and helping someone else”