Working in a job focused intensely on cities and how they function, I often come across the statistic that more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. It’s an interesting point for a number of reasons but what interests me most is what the term ‘lives’ might actually mean. Do you ‘live’ in a city if you sleep in the city? What if you work/play/relax/eat/drink/fight or love in the city. I think a lot of us think of a city as an entity that uses us- we respond to changes in the city (changes to public transport routes, road works, new buildings etc) rather than thinking that the city is an organic space/shape/being that should respond to a range of influences, one of which is people. Paying attention to how people use the city is really important.
Suburbanisation allowed people to develop a sense of privacy and personal space, which was almost unprecedented in human history (unless you worked as a shepherd or explorer). My parents’ generation, and to a lesser extent their parents, embraced cars, fenced suburban blocks and a belief that life/community/the city were things that you left the house to find. One of the spin-offs of this mindset is the belief that the city can exist without the input of ordinary people. It’s easy to see the development and changes in a city as the work of governments, councils, developers and investors.
Things are changing. More people are choosing to forgo the quarter acre block and opting for medium density housing, community groups such as food co-ops are generating new communities within cities and people are rediscovering their cities not just as places to work but also as places to be. This is great. The difficulty is that while it’s relatively easy to change the way you interact with a city (say by deciding to shop locally rather than by driving to a big shopping centre) taking the next step and actually starting a project that other people can participate in is hard. Renew Adelaide is an organisation which aims to plug a hole between the community and the people or organisations who own space. To put it simply, we match community groups or creative practitioners with spaces that are vacant or underused. This requires open-minded property owners and creative councils because what we’re doing is at odds with the traditional idea that access to space requires financial capital and that changes in a city trickle down from people in positions of power. Renew Adelaide, which is based on the successful Renew Newcastle model, challenges cities to consider the impact that comes from giving the people who use the city a chance to take a piece of the city and make it their own. No matter how good your infrastructure is (beautiful buildings, well-planned streets) it is people that make a city vibrant and Renew Adelaide is all about building vibrant cities from the ground up. Maybe we’ll see you in Norwood Payneham St Peters in the future?
Lara Torr, Project Manager, Renew Adelaide Inc.
When Brecknock Consulting were engaged in 2009 to develop a public art strategy for the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, my team and I were impressed by the history, diversity, outstanding sense of place and creative nature of the community. However we also started to ask ourselves questions about the ways cities and communities enter into a dialogue regarding contemporary questions about the urban condition and creative communities. We wondered if it is enough to enhance the urban environment with quality contemporary art or indeed can the art become a conversational process through which we can be “Thinking Through The City”. To their great credit Council endorsed our concept and approved the strategy and its implementation, we now look forward to seeing how the community enters into the urban dialogue and how over time it will evolve and take shape across the city. Cities can be thought of as an ever changing stage set upon which our lives are played out, at times we become a lead player and at other times a mere bit player or supporting actor in what seems like a fast moving and improvised melodrama. So let’s use the city to explore the urban condition, our sense of belonging and our individual and communal fears and aspirations.
Richard Brecknock MPIA [SU] Director, Brecknock Consulting
“Where public art really fails is not where there is negative publicity, but rather where there is indifference”
Well that is the thinking of Toby Dennet, Director of the Sculptor’s Society of Ireland and I have to say I agree with him.
As Community Arts Officer for the Council I think a lot about public art in relation to our public spaces – from pavements to parks (both those for people and those for cars), from playgrounds to swimming pools and from laneways to median strips. The Council has a firm commitment to enlivening the public realm by installing permanent and/or temporary artworks, and to encouraging the use of our public areas for creative and leisure activities, performances and events. The question is: Given the Council’s limited resources, what’s the most effective way to do this?
Our community appears to value having artworks in public spaces, and I’m curious to know whether, in terms of public art, the collective opinion is that less is more, or is it that more is better?
If you’re familiar with our laneways, side-streets and creeks, what or where do you see as the unsung treasures in our Council area? I’m sure there is more artwork, be it publically or privately owned, in our midst than appears on a first impression. Or maybe there’s simply a back alley, a tree in Linear Park or corner of a reserve that you find beautiful, that has special meaning to you. Where you would like to see public art and what themes or questions you would like it to explore? And finally, how do you want public art to relate to place? Does it need to or can we simply enjoy art for art’s sake?
Mary Giles Community Arts Officer Norwood Payneham & St Peters
As both an art maker and an art lover, I am often moved more by the underlying motivations and processes: the difficulties and desires of the artist as embodied in the art work, than by the polished spectacle of singular finished pieces…
often these motivations and processes; the narratives that link art and life are somewhat lost-in-translation between studio and gallery. (more…)
CITY OF NORWOOD PAYNEHAM & ST PETERS