Public Art Research Archive, Sheffield Hallam University, UK


Public Arts - A Review (1994)
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.

To: Chair and Members of the
Leisure Services Committee
3rd November 1994

Public Arts - A review

  1. Introduction
    1. Members will be aware of the long history of collecting works for public places in the borough. This work may be said to have started in the 1930's with the purchase of a number of Victorian statues for our town parks, continuing with the acquisition of the Brunel statue and Carlton Attwood's Golden Lion in the 1970's. The 70's and early 80's saw the painting of many murals around the town in tandem with large scale landmark sculptures in West Swindon and the town centre.
    2. 1988 saw the advent of the Council's Public Arts Policy which formalised its intentions to continue to advocate the commissioning of works of art for public places. The Public Arts Officer works closely with all departments to ensure the success of the policy.
    3. Over the years the policy has stimulated many partnerships with the private sector and with local people. This report aims to review progress, inform about some present work, and point to some future initiatives.
  2. Review
    1. The Public Arts collection (last counted early 1993) numbers 37 works which have been catalogued and promoted through our new brochure - 'the Works'. Since this brochure was produced last year it is reported as "going well" in local recreation centres, libraries, arts venues, community venues, civic reception desks, and has proved particularly successful at the new Tourist Information Centre. It has also been mailed to students, members of the public (local and elsewhere), other local authorities (from Glasgow to Brighton), and interested professionals nationwide and abroad (from Universities in the USA to the Venice school of Architecture!). Further mailing needs to be done to spread the word about Thamesdown and is planned for later this year.
    2. The Art and Language Project sponsored by the Countryside Commission in support of the continuing development of the Great Western Community Forest, produced three local projects led by a Photographer in Walcot; a Stained Glass Artist in Wanborough; and a sculptor in Wroughton. These projects built strong relationships with local people resulting in some extraordinary temporary works: Walcot - a series of photographs showing very personal responses to the landscape and many images of reflections through windows, these were displayed on Thamesdown Transport buses, at Walcot Library and on hoardings in Sussex Square; Wanborough - an installation of twelve council house doors, painted bright orange and hung with exquisite stained and painted glass stood on development land on the Beanlands; Wroughton - an exhibition of sculptures at Wroughton Library made of all manner of found materials inc. leaves, wood, plastics etc. represented special places in the landscape. The findings of these projects have been written in a report to the Countryside Commission and will be published in the coming months. The report also aims to get to the 'root' of how local people feel about their local landscapes.
    3. The refurbishment of Cricklade Road Phase 1 is complete and includes metal work by a notable sculptor. This scheme shows 24 metal panels which serve to guide pedestrians at the two main junctions, also the sculptor has provided a large public seat which can be seen outside St. Barnabas Church.
    4. Discussions about Phase 2 of this scheme include plans for an entrance feature at the Great Western Way end of the Road as a reponse to requests from traders for a welcoming 'sign' for this bustling shopping street.

  3. Present and Future initiatives.
    1. Members may remember the Public Arts marketing campaign undertaken earlier this year called the Clarke Homes Local Challenge (sponsored by the home builders of the same name). This Challenge produced 34 well considered applications from local groups representing 4,610 local people. The applicants were competing for the chance to work with an Artist on a public site of their choosing. Six independent judges including the sponsor selected -
      Swindon Bike Group for their commitment and enthusiasm to work with an Artist to produce new art for the Old Town Railway Path. The Bike Group are working well and busy planning their project. They plan to interview five Artists this month.
    2. Other proposals in the pipeline including preparatory design work by Artists for an access ramp to the Bath Road Museum and Art Gallery, and proposals for a corporate design approach to signing in Thamesdown car parks.
    3. Contained within the Public Arts Policy is a statement regarding the Percent for Art philosophy, here are some examples of our new partnerships e.g.: Abbey Life for Blagrove Ind. Estate; Second City Ltd for Wanborough the Beanlands; USM for Market Street; and Housing Services for Eldene Elderly Persons Group Dwellings.

  4. Town Centre
    1. As Swindon moves towards its goal of City Status an important and strategic public site has become available for Art. The crossroads at Regent Street/ Canal Walk/ the Parade has been made available through the town centre refurbishment scheme. Artists are being invited to research and respond to the town and to put forward proposals for this site to set before the public in the coming months.
    2. Bearing in mind the importance of the proposed new art work Members may wish to consider the most appropriate mechanism by which to select the final project from the short list of artists already commissioned.
    3. It should be noted that this is not the only committee with an interest in the new art work. The Public Works and Services Committee has responsibility for the site, which has major services running beneath it. Planning permission may also be required.

  5. Public Arts Policy
    1. The Percent for Art philosophy has fared well over recent years and is included in the draft Local Plan. The deposit process of the Thamesdown Local Plan Deposit Draft has thrown up a number of responses and objections which centre on the relationship between provision of art work and granting of planning permission. In the light of these responses the members of the Committee may wish to reaffirm their commitment to the Public Arts Policy.
    2. The Public Arts Officer is an advisor to Media Arts in their work to evolve the Southern Arts sponsored Artist's residency towards the production of new and innovative media work for the proposed heritage museum. The Officer is also an advisor to the Great Western Community Forest, in the light of the findings of the Art and Landscape Project, towards an integrated approach to the Arts in the Forest. Additionally the Officer on behalf of the authority now holds the position of Treasurer of Public Art Forum - the national association for Public Art. This organisation is engaged in influencing the growth of Public Art in this country and abroad and is also fostering creative initiatives for Art and Architecture towards the Millennium.

      In mid-November the post of Public Arts Projects Trainee will be advertised. This will be a two year appointment to assist the work of the Public Arts Unit in developing new projects with Percent for Art funds received. It is hoped to appoint a post-holder before Christmas.

  6. Implications
    The social implications of this report are that it aims to increase the public accessibility of Art whilst working to encourage the involvement of local people and the public at large.

    The environmental implications of this report are that it aims to improve and enhance our physical surroundings both in terms of visual quality and an increase in distinctiveness.

    The Trades Union views have not been sought in this report. There are no financial implications for the Council.

  7. Recommendations
    • i) That the contents of this report be accepted as a review of progress.
    • ii) That the members of the Committee reaffirm their commitment to the Public Arts Policy in the light of objections received on the Thamesdown Local Plan Deposit Draft 1994 namely that:-
      " The Borough Council will in appropriate cases negotiate for the provision of new works of public art as part of schemes of development, and in determining an application for planning permission will have regard to the contribution made by any such works to the appearance of the development and the amenity of the area. "
    • iii) That Leisure Services establish a working party to select the new art work at the Parade Crossroads and nominates Members to serve on that Working party, along with co-opted representatives from a wide range of interests, and that P & R Committee be recommended that attendance at the Working Party be an approved duty for purposes of the Attendance Allowance Code.
    • iv) That the final selection of the new art work be referred to the Policy and Resources committee.

John Fisher
Borough Leisure Officer

24th October 1994

Return to public art documents page

sheffield other locations pmsa documents links
search homepage

This page maintained by Simon Quinn
Slide Collection, Learning and IT Services
Last updated 24 August, 2005