Formerly homeless street artist Stik collaborated with The Big Issue in 2013 to raise awareness and funds for this charitable publication. By pasting his posters in the magazine, Stik turned homeless vendors of the magazine into art dealers.
The Big Issue was founded in 1991. Since then, the publication has employed thousands of homeless vendors, who earn their income by selling issues of the magazine to the public. Stik's collaboration with The Big Issue in 2013 resulted in a series of posters being folded into the magazines, which could be purchased from these vendors.
Stik became homeless in 2011, and lived in a St Mungo's hostel as he was preparing for his first gallery exhibition. Nowadays, Stik continues to use his art to campaign for awareness around homelessness, and raise funds for charities like St Mungo's and The Big Issue Foundation.
When Stik started this collaboration with The Big Issue, the magazine informed him that it would cost around £10,000 to print his lithographs and insert them into the magazine. The astronomical price put a definitive end to Stik's dream, until a year later. A telecommunications company used one of Stik's images without his permission, and Stik responded with a strongly worded letter. When the company offered him a £10,000 settlement, he told them to give the money to The Big Issue Foundation, which eventually funded the series.
Stik himself was homeless in 2011, and he has remembered this time as having a great influence on his artwork. Rough sleeping on the street and spending short periods of time in hostels, it became increasingly difficult for Stik to carry his drawings with him. As he remarked, "For me, painting on the streets was the safest place to keep my art."
After copies of The Big Issue containing his posters were distributed, Stik began a campaign around the country to sign editions of the magazine. The chance to have the magazine signed by the artist attracted even more buzz, and helped to raise greater awareness and funds for The Big Issue Foundation.
Throughout his artistic career, Stik has built a close relationship with The Big Issue. Whether collaborating with the magazine, as we see in this series, or appearing in interviews on its pages, Stik has a clear personal affinity to the publication and their charitable cause.
By randomly pasting The Big Issue posters into the magazine itself, Stik made it necessary to purchase an edition of the magazine to collect his posters. In this, the vendors of The Big Issue became art dealers, selling the magazine for a flat rate and therefore highlighting the democratic and philanthropic nature of Stik's practice.
Stik's posters were inserted into The Big Issue at random. In total, there were four prints available: 30,000 red, 30,000 blue, 10,000 yellow and 5,000 orange. The distribution of these colours turned the collection of the magazines into a game, like a lottery to collect different colours of the poster. More than this, the first person to collect a poster in every colour was given the chance to claim a red print which was non-folded and signed by Stik.
Stik's collaboration with The Big Issue introduced a number of art collectors and street art enthusiasts to the publication. The project was made with the intention to introduce a new group of people to the magazine, and encouraged them to continue their engagement with the Foundation.
The only way to purchase an issue of the magazine containing Stik's posters was through a designated vendor of The Big Issue. The collaboration therefore encouraged members of the public to engage with vendors of the magazine, combatting the disregard for homeless people in the UK. As Stik remarked: "Most homeless people are invisible as well as silent. The Big Issue gives them a voice and I hope this collaboration reminds people that the people selling The Big Issue are trying really hard to help themselves, and to get out there and speak to them.”