A dazzling fifteen metre mosaic was unveiled in Malden Manor on Saturday.
More than 1,000 volunteers contributed to the nature-themed artwork, which is located under a bridge by the Hogsmill River.
Representatives from the Save the World Club (SWC), the charity which organised the mosaic, said it has transformed a place that was a hot-spot for drug-taking and graffiti.
Head artist Kim Porrelli said: “Rather than it being a dark, unloved corridor it’s now a place that people want to come to, and that’s amazing.”
Roland Lawrence, SWC treasurer, agreed: “It’s just a complete transformation.”
The mosaic was made exclusively from recycled materials donated by businesses, shops and residents, and SWC secretary Dr Tariq Shabbeer said that it was the product of more than £500,000 worth of volunteering hours.
THUMBS UP: Dr Tariq Shabbeer with Thay Thayalan (left), Mayor for Kingston
People from across the Malden Manor community contributed to the mosaic, from schoolchildren to inter-faith groups.
Ms Porrelli said: “It has been an incredibly positive experience for me.
“I’ve had lots of little kids coming down saying, ‘Oh my god that’s the bit I did in school!’ and just being really proud of it.”
Ms Porrelli invited all volunteers to contribute their own ideas for the mosaic, then pieced them together to create a spectacular woodland scene with foxes, owls, butterflies, a fierce sun and a shimmering moon.
Dr Shabbeer said that being involved in the creative process was particularly valuable to the youths who used to frequent the spot.
He said: “Making a mosaic makes young people feel respected, useful, and wanted, and that in turn can help them to make a more positive contribution to society.
“That increases their self-esteem and confidence and many who have helped us have had a change in heart, and gone back into education, work or society as better people.”
WHAT A HOOT: People from all parts of the community took part in creating the mosaic.
Ms Porrelli agreed, and noted that this had repercussions for the whole area, pointing out that no graffiti had appeared under the bridge since its makeover.
She said: “Once you get people involved, make them feel like an area is loved, it stops being a target.”
The mosaic also has an artistic connection, standing just along the river from the spot where John Everett Millais painted his pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, Ophelia in 1851.
Ms Porrelli said: “We have brought art back to the Hogsmill.”
She added that she hoped the spot might become an attraction for art lovers.
Planning for the mosaic started in May 2017, after community officer Sophia Allinson nominated the spot for renovation.
The SWC raised £27,000, of which £10,000 came from the National Lottery, and £12,500 was donated by residents.
TRANSFORMED: The previous graffiti hot-spot will now hopefully attract art lovers.
SWC Chairman Des Kay led from the front, asking for donations outside Malden Manor station while dressed as a tree.
The Save the World Club is a Kingston-based charity which aims, according to its website: “To nurture happy, healthy, creative and resilient individuals and communities that respect and live within the limits of the planet.”
It specialises in community mosaics, having built several across Kingston and beyond over the past two decades.
The charity is currently searching for premises for future activities and food storage, and for more volunteers.
See www.savetheworldclub.org for information.
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