Public Art Research Archive, Sheffield Hallam University, UK


This document comes from an Information Pack supplied by the Public Arts Unit at Thamesdown Borough Council (to be renamed Swindon Borough Council in April 1997)
It is reprinted by kind permission of Thamesdown Borough Council.

Public Art Programme - Background

In 1989 a national survey (The Public Arts Report published by Public Art Forum) of local authorities showed that 124 regularly commission works of art for public places under a Public Arts policy and/or using the formal mechanism of Percent for Art.

Thamesdown Borough Council has been working with voluntary and amateur groups, and the private sector since the early 1970’s to effect involvement and activity in art for a public context. Between 1975 and 1985 41 murals resulted from this partnership approach. In addition, from the early 1980’s to the present, professional work was and is commissioned by the Borough, the private sector and local people.

The growth of the Council’s initiatives in public arts activity has now matured into a well established Percent for Art mechanism under the banner of a Public Arts Policy (agreed across all committees in 1988). The borough now boasts a lively and full public art programme. Our collection to date numbers some 30 works of art and craft.

We advocate our policy to the private sector eg. Carter Commercial Developments recently commissioned (£30,000) Artist John Clinch to make a larger than life bronze of Swindon born film star Diana Dors, for the MGM Multi-plex cinema as part of their development - Shaw Ridge Leisure Park.

W H Smith’s bought and commissioned for their HQ works for public enjoyment. A kinetic sculpture made of large painted steel pencils by Peter Logan; and three bronze figures by Dame Elizabeth Frink stand at the entrance near the road way. A vast collection of textiles, paintings, wall hangings and prints, for interior spaces are enjoyed by staff and visitors.

Other local/national companies and/or developers who have taken up the Policy and made it their own are: Trencherwood Homes, Pizza Express, Allied Dunbar, Clark Homes, Steetley Brick and Concrete Products. Companies who are discussing joining in are: Burmah Oil, McLean Homes, Tarmac, Renault UK.

We encourage and support local initiatives eg. the people of Pinehurst Peoples Centre are planning to commission an Artist to develop a community garden for the benefit of users and visitors. Local residents of Old Town are working with an Artist, developing an idea for a brass sun-dial to be positioned in the local park immemorial to their late policeman.

The Council has its own programme within capital and revenue schemes (new build, refurbishment, maintenance and landscape). For example before the close of this year we will see Artist’s work come to fruition in a variety of settings: on the wall of a town centre Multi-storey car park using anti-graffiti paint as part of a refurbishment scheme; relief sculpture moulded into the parapet sections of a massive road Bridge; carved brick relief panels for the exterior walls of a community centre and an extensive paving mosaic for the entrance.

Other projects on the ‘drawing board’ of our public/private partnership include:- wood or stone sculpture for a housing development; paving and street furniture designs for a new town centre market development; sculpture using natural materials for a new wooded area.

Structure and methodology
  • The Public Arts Policy was agreed across committees in 1988.
  • The Policy aims to initiate, encourage and manage public art projects to ensure greater quality in our built and natural environment; creating places and spaces for people.
  • The Policy is a catalyst for corporate thinking and community activity. It actively promotes public/private/local partnerships.
  • The PUBLIC ARTS UNIT THAMESDOWN was set-up in 1990.
  • The Public Arts Officer is bought in at an early stage of planning to discuss and establish the scale and parameters for a project with (a) the Council dept(s), (b) the developer, (c) the local group(s).
  • A working team is established to decide upon the: appropriate form of art/craft to be utilised; to select an artist/craftsperson; set a budget; and programme the project, often within the constraints of a larger scheme or policy. The UNIT then manages (or assists local people in managing) the project start to finish (contract of Artist to unveiling ceremony).
  • Project teams can include any or all of the following people: architect, engineer, landscape architect, councillor, local resident/rep, project manager, developer, local business rep.
    Lorraine Cox,
    Public Arts Officer
    30 August 1991

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