What do you do with disused phone boxes? Lucas Castellano puts 10p in the slot and gives Sam Toft a call…
If you’ve ever wandered around the streets of Seven Dials to Powis Square you might have come across the rare sight of two telephone boxes side by side. Well, that’s the Dog and Bone Gallery.
After walking past them on her way to the Little Mustard Shop round the corner on Clifton Hill, artist Sam Toft took a closer look one day and found a card which said, “If you want to buy this phone box, phone this number.” Sam, who’s known around the world for her warm, delightful Mr Mustard artwork, got in touch and leased them for a couple years. She set to work restoring, decorating and generally “injecting some more Mr Mustard magic.”
The magic was in Sam’s vision. Most of us would see an old phone box and ruefully smile, maybe absent mindedly fingering the new shiny iPhone in their pocket. Sam thought something else. Sam, pictured right, in mustard (obviously), thought “art gallery”.
Sam, who’d previously set up the Little Mustard Shop for her own work and paraphernalia from the world she’d created for Mr Mustard, conceived of the Dog & Bone as a showcase for young up-and-coming artists. When the boxes came up for sale a few months later Sam “couldn’t bear the idea of someone else having them” so she took the plunge. “So glad I did,” she said.
This tiny gallery is now a gift to the community. “The presence of community art in a safely accessible space is more important than ever.
“Art is the universal language and I believe it is essential for maintaining good mental health, especially during uncertain times. Making art in all forms has always been vital for human well-being and the appreciation of art can enrich and intensify our life experience,” said the artist.
From a giant six-foot bunny rabbit making a phone call to a dog in the next booth to a flying Lancashire cheese and onion pie, the gallery never fails to excite.
Who would have thought of buying two square meters and turning them into an art gallery?
“My intention was to try to make a difference. To make them an asset to the square and an asset to Brighton.” said Sam. “Dog & Bone Gallery brings a dose of eclectic art to street level and provides a free exhibition space for both established and emerging artists.
“We’ve brought art to the heart of the community and it’s a lovely thing.” These unique phone boxes, which were looking so sad and run-down not so long ago, have not only spiced up the square, but have given the community a unique landmark which people from across the world would love to have around the corner.
“I firmly wear rose-tinted spectacles and don’t plan on giving them up anytime soon.”