ART IN PLACEMAKING

Art in Placemaking. A photography of the urban graffiti art piece by Banksy called, Street Cleaner. The illustration shows a maid appearing to hold up the wall to sweep dirt underneath.

According to PPS, placemaking is both a process and philosophy, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. It capitalises on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential with the intention of creating public spaces that promote health happiness and well-being. Stimulating public artworks play a key role because they offer more than just passive observation. Culture is the perfect vehicle to engage communities and promote conversation about heritage, identity, and sense of belonging. Great art makes great places, great places attract great talent, and great talent creates great jobs!

How UK BIDs can work with cultural organisations 

Improving Places, a new report produced by Arts Council England examines how culture is key to the success of UK BIDs. By collaborating with cultural organisations, they can drive economic growth and help local communities thrive. In the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, they can also offer a potential solution to falling public funding and rising business rates. BIDs and cultural organisations that are positively connected can share information and plan joint marketing campaigns for maximum reach and impact. The report identifies six ways in which they can work together:

  1. Placemaking, by using local knowledge to help develop innovative neighbourhoods.
  2. Place branding, by promoting an area as distinctive and attractive for locals and visitors.
  3. Business development, by helping industry professionals and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
  4. Providing affordable spaces.
  5. Involving local people will build stronger communities.
  6. Design a programme of creative activities to highlight a location’s unique offer and raise the public profile.

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and local challenges will require local responses. But, to ensure coherent policies there needs to be an element of joined-up thinking with private enterprise, local government, BIDs, and cultural organisations all involved at the early planning stages.

Commissioning public artworks

The Great Places conference last month, launched a year-long programme of initiatives from the BFP (British Property Federation) to examine the dynamics of successful places. The project aims to showcase the real estate industry’s collective role and social impact across the UK to clients, communities, and government. Coinciding with the conference was the joint publication of A Guide to Commissioning Public Art by BPF and Contemporary Art Society which highlights how art contributes to a sense of place and identity.

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy at the BPF said:

“The real estate industry provides value to society beyond its economic contribution, but it needs to communicate the benefits that flow from long-term investment if it’s to win the hearts and minds of the people it serves. We hope our Great Places campaign hardwires placemaking into the real estate industry’s contribution to the nation’s social well-being.”  

Fabienne Nicholas, Head of Art Consultancy at the Contemporary Art Society said:

“Truly ambitious public art is now a key component of cultural placemaking, animating public realm and creating encounters that humanise and create meaning for places. It is often the art that contributes the most to that unique sense of place, supporting the identity and visibility of new developments and creating thriving sustainable communities.” 

Art in Placemaking. A photograph by Oren Rozen of the work of street artist, D*Face shows an image of a woman in the pop art style.

Cities of Culture

An example of how the arts can shape modern placemaking. Inspired by Liverpool’s 2008 European Capital of Culture status, the concept continues in the UK and in 2013 Derry/Londonderry reported that for every £1 of the £100m investment, £5 was earned for the city.

The University of Hull is about to release statistics on its tenure as 2017 City of Culture and the benefits to the economy. Key findings from the first 3 months include:

  • 90% of Hull residents attended or experienced a cultural event or activity as part of the UK’s City of Culture.
  • 70% of resident agreed it had a positive impact on the lives of local people.
  • 342,000 visitors came to ‘Made in Hull’ during opening week and 94% of the audience agreed the event made them feel more connected to the city, the stories of its people, the history and heritage.
  • Of the 1.1m people passing through Queen Victoria Square during the Blade installation, over 420,000 interacted with the artwork. 50% said it was the main influential reason for their visit that day and 46% said they would not have come if the Blade wasn’t there.

Art in Placemaking. Photograph of The Blade, a public artwork in Hull, UK City of Culture 2017. Photography © Kim Dent-Brown

Last month, Manchester joined a network of 180 world cities recognised by UNESCO for their commitment to the arts. With over 10 UK cities already accredited by the organisation, Manchester follows Nottingham, Norwich and Edinburgh in becoming a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.  Winning is a real accolade and not just a title for one year, that reflects the depth of community involvement. Cities must have plans in place that continually improve access and participation in cultural life, especially for marginalised or vulnerable groups and individuals.

Earlier this week, at STC2017, I met Jean Cameron, Project Director for Paisley’s BID to be UK City of Culture 2021. A town of contrasts, Paisley’s heritage is stunning, thanks to its transformation into a textile hub during the industrial revolution, it is home to the largest concentration of listed buildings outside of Edinburgh. World-class business and international talent sit side by side with some of Scotland’s most deprived communities. Winning UK City of Culture 2021 is a chance to change that by reinventing the place and transforming the lives of locals.

Investment in culture has the power to do all that.

Good luck Paisley!