Behind the Scenes, 6 December 2017: Public Art in Plymouth
by Jodie Bishop, Public Art Officer
It’s fair to say that life as a Public Art Officer is certainly pretty varied!
Public art describes any creative work carried out by an artist in a public space. Projects can range from large permanent sculptures, performances of dance, theatre and music to temporary installations or short events that can last for a matter of days or hours.
Over the past few years I’ve been involved in a wide range of projects that have taken place across the city centre, waterfront, green and urban spaces and even out at sea. The projects have seen us work with some brilliant artists and have included dog walking, skate parks, lighting projections and the Breakwater.
As a city we are keen to support and enable more high quality public art projects to happen, adding to the variety in and vibrancy of Plymouth. Public art can be a great way to bring spaces to life, change the way we look at our surroundings or help to tell and uncover hidden stories. We have recently worked with the internationally renowned organisation Situations to launch a public art plan for the city alongside the Plymouth Principles. These important documents set out our ambitions and values for our public spaces and how we want to work with artists.
Day to day my role splits into two main areas; working with City Council departments such as Planning, along with developers and large organisations to support and champion further opportunities for public art; and providing support on the ground for the delivery of public art by working with artists, students and communities.
As part of the recent Plymouth Art Weekender I supported 10 artist projects to take place across the city centre and waterfront. My role was crucial in helping the artists liaise with other Council departments such as Events, Parks, Highways and Parking. It also helped ensure some of the less glamorous but vital elements were in place such as risk assessments and method statements so projects could be signed off and permission granted.
If you’ve ever wondered who created the new sculpture outside St Andrew’s Church or why there’s a giant metal loop in Victoria Park you’ll soon be able to find out! We are currently in the process of completing an audit of all the public art in the city and carefully working our way through a list of over 100 artworks that will soon be available to discover online. This is a great opportunity to highlight some of the permanent pieces we have in Plymouth such as ‘In Praise of Trees’ by Peter Randall-Page in Ham Woods and an archive of more temporary projects such as ‘Top Dog’ by Jemma Egan in Central Park.
Finally, you may also be aware that when The Box opens in 2020 it will include a brand new outdoor piazza. We’re currently exploring ways to use this and public art will have a key role here. We’re hoping to work with a wide a range of artists who can help us create an exciting space for visitors to The Box and capture the imagination of those who are passing through on their way into town.
You can hear Jodie talk about her role in our Arts and Cultural Development ‘Meet The Team’ feature.