This past month we’ve been reflecting on the power of storytelling and the value of public art in shaping and sharing the narrative of people and place.
Published date: 02 November 2021
Celebrating local stories
Over at our Shepway Regeneration project site, Jonathan Wright, the Lead Artist we commissioned on behalf of Golding Homes has been spending time researching the area surrounding Cambridge Crescent, as well as gathering local stories from the past and existing communities to get a sense of the place. He has mostly been researching where the area’s current history is being made, unearthing recent local stories that will bring the public art for Cambridge Crescent to life. Jonathan is fascinated by craft techniques, and makes work that celebrates local history and people and has a function in the community.
A Trip to the Seaside
Jonathan lives down in Folkestone where he also project manages many of the artworks for the Triennial there. He kindly agreed to act as our tour guide when we popped down to visit last week – we always enjoy going out to see what other public art organisations are doing, to get fresh inspiration for our own work. We really appreciated Jonathan sharing his personal insights into many of the artworks and telling us more about the unique stories behind each one of the installations we saw.
Standout Artworks at Folkestone Triennial
Four pieces really stood out for us and had particularly interesting the background tales to be told. Jaqueline Poncelet’s beautiful Looking Ahead and Shimmera, Morag Myerscoft’s bright, bold and upbeat Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips, Jacqueline Donachie’s evocative and impactful Beautiful Sunday and one of our first Virtual Reality experiences – The Terrarium – an interactive oceanic science fiction and sonic immersion imagined and created by Shezad Dawood. While the Triennial has now come to an end, some of the artworks remain in place as permanent installations and all of the artist videos are still online, so do click through to read and hear more about the meanings behind the works, even if you are unable to get down to visit in person.
Storytelling, narrative and place
The overall theme for this year’s Triennial was The Plot – a clever choice given its suggestion of multiple meanings – hinting at both storytelling and physical place and where the two might intersect. The Creative Foundation’s website goes on to explain that it intended to explore:
myth; encouraging viewers to question the gap between fact and fiction, and what ‘place-making’ really means … Conceptually, a ‘plot’ can be a narrative or conspiracy; from a material point of view, it can also mean a plot of land, or to plot a course or graph – things that are mathematically verifiable. Observing the gap between personally verified experience and what is otherwise told or narrated, the Triennial urges viewers to consider the voids left behind by ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truths’.
Valuing public art for the long term
We particularly liked the way that the Triennial organises hosts, who are very proactive in getting the audience to maximise engagement with the work and we were also struck by the ongoing maintenance and care in looking after the artworks, whether temporary or permanent. The artworks are out in all weathers for a long period of time, subject to the sea air, vandalism and technical issues. As soon as an issue is spotted, their maintenance team swoop in and put everything right – which we were privileged to learn more about from our tour with Jonathan.
Our conversations got us thinking again about the issue of valuing public art for the long-term. As you can see from our Process Map – this crucial stage is something we always take into account from the outset when planning new commissions- once the artwork is installed and handed over to the client, maintenance plays a large role in keeping the public realm well cared for and valued.
Have you been out to see any public art recently? Did you catch the Folkestone Triennial this year? What local stories would you like to see celebrated through public art in your community?