PUBLIC ART IN THAMESDOWN
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Present and Future initiatives.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Town Centre
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Public Arts Policy
- 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.
- 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
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.
- i) That the contents of this report be accepted as a review of
- 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.
Borough Leisure Officer
24th October 1994
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