Russell Pepper – Brightening the doors of Dundee

July 20, 2018

Russell Pepper’s project, Open/Close, works with local artists to bring street art to Dundee and colour to the alleyways and forgotten corners of the city.

In the summer of 2017, with support from the community, local businesses and the council, Russell organised a trial project of 18 painted doors in lanes, closes and alleyways around the city centre of Dundee – all receiving makeovers courtesy of local artists. The trail was initially funded for 6 doors, but the project grew when artists heard about it and many volunteered their time and paints. The artworks are all located in the city centre, and the trail can either be self-guided or a monthly group walking tour.

Russell explains, “The idea for Open/Close came from when I was working in Aalborg, where they have a fantastic city-wide mural trail which took you to places way out of the city centre. Aalborg is a very similar size to Dundee, and I thought a similar trail would translate very well to here.”

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Russell had previously been exploring the idea of improving urban spaces in Dundee, inspired by his international travels to other cities, “the trail idea went perfectly with this” he says. “We took inspiration from Painted Doors Aberdeen – using doors is cheaper than large-scale murals and it’s an easy way of easing the public into the idea of street art to gauge reaction. I’m delighted to say that the response has been very positive and things are snowballing rapidly!”

A painted door in an alleyway. The door iis yellow, pink and green and is a graphic and surreal looking face.
Painted door by ThingThing

The city centre trail was such a success, Open/Close went on to create a trail in the Stobswell area of Dundee. The aim was to encourage tourists to see a different side of Dundee, beyond the waterfront. The trail highlights projects, shops, areas and buildings of interest in Stobswell, encouraging people to explore the city whilst potentially bringing trade to local business. As part of the Stobswell project, local filmmaker Jon Gill made a documentary, which the Dundee Contemporary Arts screened in May this year.

A painted sign in a street. The words read "Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master" in beautiful, flowing typography.
Sign by Ross Hastie

The project is expanding beyond doorways as Open/Close is now working on Waste of Space, with the Euro bins in the West End being painted on behalf of Dundee City Council. Russell says, “the response to this has been incredible; with only a 2 week window, we had 80 submissions! We are also making a “Parklet”, which is a small seating/park area placed in a car parking space. The aim is to improve the urban environment and question the dominance of motorised transport in our cities. This will be installed at the top end of Reform Street during the Dundee Street festival over the weekend of 21/22 July.”

A painted doorway in an alley way. The doorway is painted with a tribute to van Gogh's Starry Night.
Painted door by SYKE

Russell says, “The support has been fantastic, overwhelming and unexpected – Dundee has really embraced the project and it’s this kind of support which is truly one of the best things about living and working here.”

We are delighted to welcome Russell Pepper as a V&A Dundee Design Champion, recognising Russell’s passion for the city and the artists who colour it.

To find out more, visit

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.

We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018. 


V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.

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