Thursday, 7 April 2011

a field student of public art

How does Waltham Forest Borough Council support and care for (or curate) public art in the borough? What does generous support for a work of public art mean? What sorts of judgement about public arts provision can be made on the basis of a visit to a council web-site?

My questions are asked with a bias towards outdoor sculpture and site specific installation - and so I acknowledge I am not addressing the full spectrum of arts, entertainment and culture.

Here is a collection of London borough council public art web pages to compare to LBWF's; Each link was sourced using the search term: 'name of council public art'

http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/index/leisure/arts-entertainment.htm


http://www.brent.gov.uk/arts.nsf/Arts/LBB-27

http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/content/leisure/arts-music--culture/arts-and-tourism-service/arts-projects-and-programmes/public-art-development.en;jsessionid=7CE0A22904F47340E3980CDE76036F09

http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/environment/planning/publicrealm/public-art/

http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200006/arts_in_southwark/1769/public_ar t/1

http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/LeisureAndCulture/ArtsService/PublicArt/

http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=8991


The question of how LBWF manages the portfolio of public arts was prompted by my experience of trying to access, 'Linked' - an audio walk/installation by Graeme Miller.

Despite being supported by the London Borough of Waltham Forest, there is very little information about this work by an acclaimed international artist on the council website. All I have found about this work via 'lbwf.gov.uk', so far, is this list of celebrities and notables, which features Graeme Miller.

If the information is there, it is not virtually, literally or metaphorically jumping off the page. When I went to various libraries and a museum to borrow the equipment necessary to participate in Linked, many members of staff (council institutions & employees) did not know what I was talking about. The equipment was (eventually) provided following various enquiries and I recommend Linked as a public art work. The work is partly about people who lost their homes, sometimes forcibly evicted, to make way for the M11 Link road.

I appreciate it is of little consequence I expended a little more time and effort getting access to Linked than I expected however the experience prompted me to ask if various cultural strategies are pointless. The council has expended public funds on a variety of strategic surveys and initiatives which might be considered ineffective.Perhaps, like the provision and management of public footpaths, public art in Waltham Forest is sometimes lost in a labyrinth of strategies - a relevantly dated blank map.

Further afield, beyond the M25, other borough councils appear to be more inspired by London 2012. I was in Ipswich recently and picked up this free guide at the city library. Below are a few scans from the 35 page A5 booklet. It is available for download via Ipswich Council website.







Perhaps such a guide is whimsical 'surplus value' in a time of deficit and so do most of the arts have to accept less government funding - local or otherwise?

The E17 and Leytonstone Arts Trails have done a great deal to energise public art in the borough recently, creating events which reveal a lot of enthusiasm for the arts in the borough but with how much support from the council, and support based on what sorts of expectations?

Here is another site about public art


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