News & Insights

Placing Art At The Heart

Sense of Here Text in Lake District landscape

Earlier this month we helped to organise an online virtual launch for

Published date: 18 February 2021">Public Art Now! a public art campaign for Great Places: Lakes & Dales (GPLD).

Since 2019 we have been working closely with GPLD (a partnership between Craven District Council, South Lakeland District Council, Yorkshire Dales National Park and Lake District National Park) to empower a younger culture and voices in public art. Developed by FrancisKnight, the campaign looks set to be rolled out during 2021.

Alongside this, we were also involved with another public art project commissioned during 2019 for Craven District Council. The Craven boundary signage commission invited young artists to design and produce signage ahead of the World Cycling Championships 2019. FrancisKnight commissioned Yorkshire-based photographer Mary Woolf to create artwork depicting the outstanding natural beauty of the area on a series of road signs.

Public Art Now! began with us producing a plan for public art to be embedded into the future working of the four GPLD partners, with the overall aim to use art, culture and heritage to attract and retain younger people to live and work in the Lakes & Dales. You can read more about the project here, which saw us reviewing a wide range of existing local strategies and policies and consulting with the lead project partners, plus a variety of artists, creative businesses, organisations and developers, to identify how everyone could work better together, and ensure that younger voices would be listened and responded to.

As part of the online event this month, we facilitated illuminating conversations with two of our long-time collaborators, Associate Planning Director Katherine Putnam from global consultancy RPS Group and artist Dr Katayoun Dowlatshahi. Katherine was previously Head of Planning at Chartway Group, where she worked with us on the Conningbrook Lakes development. As a big advocate for public art and the huge value it can deliver for developers, local authorities and communities, she has long been a champion of our work. Katherine gave some insights into how public art can raise quality in house-building schemes. She also talked about the need for long-term commitment to ensure art is embedded within schemes from the early planning stages and then is given the necessary time to be fully realised as part of a finished development.

This theme was picked up and continued by Katayoun, who we have also worked with previously at Rochester Station and Rochester Riverside. Katayoun shared her personal experiences from her successful career as an artist specialising in producing work for the public realm. She also emphasised the importance of being engaged as an artist to be part of conversations from an early stage in a project.

Through our discussions with both Katherine and Katayoun we explored ways in which artists can enhance design teams by bringing a uniquely creative and complementary perspective to the table. As they dive deep into researching places they will uncover hidden stories and take communities on a journey towards greater cohesion and connection.

Katherine spoke about how often there can be a risk that communities feel new developments are being imposed upon them and tensions can arise between new and existing communities. Artists can bring a more engaging and effective means of facilitating community engagement – whether at the early stages of consultation on masterplanning, or during construction and beyond. Over the two hours we had a wide-ranging and open discussion, touching on other big questions, such as what makes a good place, and what makes a good public art commission brief.

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