Our most recently published podcast conversation with Caroline Hicks, Director of Growth and Community at Dartford Council, begins and ends with a discussion about the importance of creating creative places within different constraints to generate positive impact and foster wellbeing on a public and personal level.
Published date: 14 March 2023
As you’ll learn from listening to this episode, we’ve known Caroline for a long time and it’s been great seeing her career in local government expand from having responsibility for arts and culture to her more recent and current roles which have also included more of a focus on economic development, regeneration, tourism amongst other things.
We really enjoyed hearing Caroline share her insights on ways in which local authorities can spark more conversations and create more connections within their communities by harnessing the power of public art. A great example of this is the project we’re currently collaborating with Caroline on – a tribute to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that will be sited in Dartford High Street.
Caroline gave her honest view of the ‘shadow side’ of public art – touching on the fear that sometimes accompanies commissioning work that might prompt controversy and explaining how she reconciles this by choosing to embrace the unknown and welcoming the full range of different opinions that might be evoked – seeing the value in the debate to be had rather than simply the number of people who like a piece.
Our discussion also gave us time to revisit thoughts on how town centres can serve a purpose beyond the purely commercial, by providing meeting places for people to come together, and space for reflection, surprise and delight. This is something we’ve looked at in previous blogs and will continue to review as long as we work in the public realm.
We also talked about how local authority budgets for funding arts activity have shrunk away over the years and how the constraint this presents for commissioning new work can be challenging. This links to an ongoing issue we see on a regular basis with artists not being fairly compensated for the value they bring – something we appreciated being highlighted on LinkedIn by Victoria Jones, when she shared this video by Lindsay Seers which was originally posted by our friends at Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) South East. Various organisations like Axis and The Artist Union are there to support artists and in addition, we see similar challenges and constraints in relation to the way in which our work as public art consultants is sometimes valued.
It’s worth checking out our free digital downloads on the FrancisKnight website that provides best practice guidelines on commissioning public art and the value of working with an artist.
On the flipside, we also appreciate how starting with a blank canvas and no budgetary limitations can also be difficult. Constraints can actually provide a useful starting point for a purposeful brief and often new creative expression can be catalysed by difficult circumstances.
In closing, as a case in point, Caroline spoke about how the pandemic lockdowns prompted her to set aside space in her own home for creative experimentation and how important this has been for her personal wellbeing.
We hope you will be inspired by listening in and would love to hear your thoughts on creative places you have engaged with recently whether in your own home or elsewhere, and how these have helped to make you feel good or sparked conversations with others.