Public Art

Public Art (1)

Thursday, 25 May 2017 09:55

Public Art and is it worth the spend?

The question will always be what does it do for a community and what is the legacy of such an installation. 

Do you think the Angel of the North has not made an impact on the North East of England?

Have the Kelpies not brought visitors to the Falkirk area which they would have typically driven past without giving the town a second thought?

Engaging an artist and commissioning an installation is more about the requirement of what is delivered, how it is promoted, symbolic meaning, and what is the actual pay back. 

The artist should also be committed to the project and its entirety promoting a legacy.  Commissioning is all about achieving a clear objective on factors such as tourism, investment and business, these all happen after the installation.

Public art should also be relevant to the cause either a depiction, or, symbolism to an event, a person, an industry or local community.  Public art for the sake of public art does not work! 

The installation spend is also relevant and how that spend is managed. Not everyone will support the project so make sure you are open to scrutiny, have engaged and consulted and most importantly as these projects are typically public funded ensured it is a collective decision.

As a commissioning Council, there are also some basic considerations. 

  • Firstly, do not overdo it and have public art on every street corner or roundabout. People see this as a spend that could have been better spent on emotive services such as education, health and employment.
  • Secondly do not focus on one artist as your go to public artist.  It is not good for other artists who are then left questioning the commissioning process and the public will have serious concerns about the spend.
  • Thirdly, do not forget the legacy has a cost associated with it so this needs to be justified by a financial return and is not just limited to an annual insurance premium.
  • Custodian on behalf of the public is the need to maintain and replace and work with the installation in years to come.  It should be maintained and kept looking good for future generations to enjoy.
  • Run events pre and post installation for the public to engage with the work.
  • Finally, appoint through a robust selection process and not delegated authority.

When you drive around the country you will see art everywhere and it is often changing based on your mood and feelings at the time, light and darkness and how others are reacting to it.  So, do not be too eager to judge, take some time to consider the symbolic meaning and also remember how your views differ from others who are more positive about the installation.  Sometimes it takes time to accept art which is thought provoking or abstract.

I would conclude public art has a place in our lives even with all the associated costs.  It is not a black and white, or, yes and no argument on whether you support public art.  People will have different views between one installation and another. Getting the commissioning process right will get more people supporting the art installation from the start.

On a personal level as I drive up the A1 me and my family look out for the beacon which is the Angel of the North welcoming you to Gateshead and Newcastle with open arms!

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