Public Art Research Archive, Sheffield Hallam University, UK



[Interim Report written in March 1989]


In June 1988 the City Council adopted a series of resolutions concerning Art in Public Places.
A negotiation of a funding package between Council Departments, the Regional Arts Association and the Arts Council of Great Britain was concluded last summer.
Following these negotiations a post of Public Art Development Officer on secondment from the organisation Public Arts was created and organised to work from the Urban Design and Conservation Section of the Department of Land and Planning. The postholder, Mr Paul Swales, commenced work in November 1988.
This is an interim report prepared for the funding partners and for the wider audience of committees and bodies who have shown a particular interest in the issues raised by Art in Public Places.

    In May last year the Council gained national recognition through its adoption of the principle of Percent for Art as a mechanism for ensuring a city-wide programme of Art in Public Places. The Public Art Development Officer has the remit to develop the practicalities of implementation. As a major first step towards this, the following statement has been drafted for inclusion in appropriate substantial planning briefs and to be used for general guidance.

    The Planning and Transportation Programme Committee has endorsed the principal of a "Percent for Art" to encourage new works of art in public places as part of substantial developments. In determining an application for planning permission, the contribution made by any such works to the appearance of the scheme and to the amenities of the area will be considered.

    1. As far as it is known, this Authority is unique in having a declaration of policy at such an early stage of the planning process.
    2. The Sheffield Development Corporation has expressed interest in using a Percent for Art policy in the Lower Don Valley, as well as commissioning work.
    3. Discussions have also taken place with Area Plans concerning The Cultural Industries Quarter and the role public art has in giving the area a unique identity.
    4. The City Centre Action Programme Working Group has provided the opportunity to consider a City Centre framework for public art.
    5. The criteria for selecting sites includes promoting civic pride and a city identity, sites that would benefit from enhancement, sites of historic significance and sites that mark particular routes or areas.
    6. Public art in this context is not seen as just sculpture, but also as paving designs, street furniture, mosaics, wall reliefs, railings, water features and maintainable murals for subways.
    7. The operation of the above has elicited keen interest from other authorities, notably Plymouth, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Newport, Salford and Leeds.

    1. The World Student Games provide a major opportunity to promote a new identity for the city and enhance particular sites and views of the city.
      Commissions have been proposed for a mosaic, a wall relief and gates for the main entrance and the flame for the Don Valley Athletics Stadium. For Ponds Forge stained glass, a decorative floor for the foyer, a neon sculpture for the roof, railings for the new pedestrian bridge and a sculpture to be sited with the Ponds Forge Arch have been proposed.
      A national competition will be held to produce a short-list of artists for the commissions. The artists will be paid a fee to produce maquettes, models and drawings to be used for the final selection and public exhibition.
      The competition including advertisements, artists fees, exhibition and selection expenses will cost 20,000. At present this money is being sought through existing budgets and sponsorship.
      The commissions should enhance the individual sites, celebrate the internationalism of the games, provide connections with the past and celebrate the individual sports themselves.
      Commissions for the Arena Velodrome are being considered by the private developer.
    2. The positive contribution public art can make to Tudor Square has been detailed in the design brief for the architects. The brief also included ideas about celebrating the multi-cultural aspects of the World Student Games, as well as a major sculpture commission as part of the cultural facilities in the square and a mosaic pavement to link the two theatres.
    3. Other developments where commissions are being considered are the Canal Basin, Meadowhall, the Passenger Interchange, Kelham Island and the Esso Motel, Parkway.
    4. Discussions have taken place with British Rail and recommendations for public art will form part of a report suggesting improvements to the Midland Station for the World Student Games.
    5. Two small projects have been initiated to produce an entrance mural for the Tinsley subways involving a local school and a design is being commissioned for the Kelvin improvement scheme. This will require an artist working with the tenants group to produce an exciting design for a stair tower.
    6. Two city centre schemes that will be considered for public art contributions are the Broad Street and Cambridge Street developments. Unfortunately the Percent for Art policy was not available for inclusion in the planning briefs.

    The post is breaking new ground. There is obviously still much ground work and advocacy to be accomplished in this area which is new, both to the Authority and in some respects the private sector. Crucially notions of art as embellishment or decoration added on ("the icing on the cake") are being challenged. Art is being added in at an early stage not on at too late a stage of a project. Using normal planning procedure holds by far the best promise for future success. It will be appreciated that the 'fast track' timescale of much of the facilities building for 1991 create a very difficult framework. The commitment to a public art presence enhancing these facilities needs to be progressed from just verbal acknowledgement and actioned - otherwise these crucial opportunities will be lost.

    1. That the various proposals for the World Student Games sites be noted and approved as the most appropriate schemes and that as a matter of urgency the funding basis for the schemes be established with the programme controllers and phased into the building programme.
    2. That approval be given to the inclusion of public art commissions as a vital part of environmental improvement schemes for the city centre. They should be identifiable as an ingredient of any proposals for future schemes and should accordingly be built into the budgetary process of costing the schemes.
    3. That approval be given to the inclusion in all future appropriate planning briefs of the Policy Statement set out above (see 1) and consideration be given to the use of public art in future area improvement plans.
David Alston,
Deputy Director of Arts
Paul Swales,
Public Art Development Officer
March 1989

[This document is reproduced by kind permission of Sheffield City Council.]

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