Let’s Talk about Public Art, Jelly and Sweet Peas

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Blue housing at Orchard Park, Cambridge

Home Grown: Art and the Cultivation of a Neighbourhood by Oliver Bennett is a fascinating account of the use of a public art strategy for a new urban development in Cambridgeshire, implemented to add visual interest and identity to a nascent community.  Published in 2009 this publication aims to tell the story of the contribution that art made to this neighbourhood and position the story within an historical and social context.

From the outset the desire was to deliberately challenge assumptions and expectations about what public art could be, aiming to make the artworks integral to the site rather than decorative add-ons.  This desire was summed up by Josephine Teague, a member of Impington Parish Council

“Many people mistakenly believe that public art is just a picture or a piece of sculpture put in place to admire or revile as the mood takes us.  This is untrue. Public art can be the entire surroundings or environment of a settlement – the bus stops, the lighting, the pavements and the very brickwork and railings of each building.”

To this end an artist was chosen, Patricia MacKinnon-Day, whose practice involves extensive research into the history of an area and its people enabling a sense of continuity between the past and present.  When wandering around Orchard Park what is obvious are the colourful houses, the spacious streets and the purposefully placed communal areas; if you want to delve deeper then this book does an excellent job at uncovering the artists and the underlying themes.

We learn about the beautifully tactile gates by artist blacksmith Adam Booth, designed to welcome in rather than keep out…

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Click on photo to go to Adam Booth’s website

We encounter Chris Wood and her coloured glass installation, which plays with light on the Premier Inn exterior.  An attempt by the artist to reflect the temporary nature of hotel visits and visitors…

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Click on photo to go to Chris Wood’s website

We also discover Patricia MacKinnon-Day’s inspiration from two local employers Chivers and Unwins…

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Click photo for Patricia MacKinnon-Day’s website

So, no grand statements here but an enriching and integral beauty has been added with real geographical and historical meaning. A great insight into public art today.

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