Wide Open Space conference on art in public, localism and rural regeneration
26th May 2011 @ The Exchange, Sturminster Newton

Grow your own airships - public art by committee (visualisation by the People Speak)

Grow your own airships – public art by committee (visualisation by the People Speak)

  • What does Localism mean for the quality of our environment and enhancement of our public spaces ?
  • How do we continue to be creative in making places in the light of a major re-orientation of public policy and finances ?
  • Is there still a role for art and design which addresses key social issues such as housing, transport and other community needs or should the focus return to economics, branding and “iconic” art ?

Aiming to address these questions the Wide Open Space conference took place on the 26th of May 2011. Focusing on the new agenda created by the Localism Bill speakers and the audience considered what the devolvement of planning powers to neighbourhoods means for the creation of high quality places and spaces in rural communities, in the context of a stark economic and political climate for non-standardised methodologies.

Using examples of best practice and innovation in public realm projects by the public, private and voluntary sectors in Dorset, it highlighted the value of existing projects delivered through the Jurassic Coast public art programme, projects at Weymouth for the 2012 Olympics and the new Wide Open Space programme of research on context specific, cross-disciplinary art, design and heritage collaborations.

Stimulated by perspectives from politicians, academics, planners, artists, public art producers and arts organisations, discussion ranged from local authority mechanisms to enable grassroots groups to robustly discuss issues of design quality as developments evolve, to the opportunities created for Do-It-Yourself activism from artists and arts organisations working with communities. Foregrounding the equal creativity of all stakeholders and the necessity of collaborative processes in the public realm, the conference included participatory sessions by artists collective, the People Speak. Testing the scenario “art by committee” delegates had the opportunity to design a public art project, a final act for the conference emphasising the ongoing need for adventurous partnerships who create spaces and places that allow for what is different, sublime and unexpected.

All sessions are documented as text, images or video – click on the links below.

Conference programme, including speakers biographies and project summaries

Wide Open Space conference heckle cloud: A summary of the conference as a word and picture cloud by The People Speak.

The future for public design, art and heritage in Dorset: What does the future for heritage, art and design look like in Dorset – key questions from Kevin Morris, Chair, Dorset Design and Heritage Forum.

The lure of creativity: art, localism and the land: “…there is a radical otherness in a sense of place: a refusal of the functionalism which was always the flaw in modernism’s utopian project. In contrast to solutions based on a largely technical expertise, which is an urban model invented to be politically neutral in face of contested claims to space, perhaps there is an alternative based in local knowledges, and an acceptance that people produce space, just as they produce meaning, all the time, and are fully competent in doing so. The dweller is an expert on dwelling just as the planner is an expert on planning; but the former knowledge is tacit, intuitive, and easily dismissed. The challenge is to construct an equilibrium.” Malcolm Miles, Professor of Cultural Theory, University of Plymouth

Localism and the environment: The Right Hon. Oliver Letwin, MP, FRSA, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office is one of the architects of the Localism agenda, hear his thoughts on the future of the planning system and some of its impacts on rural communities.

Video of presentation – part one on youtube
Video of presentation – part two on youtube

Unlecture by the People Speak: The audience discusses the impact of localism for communities, the planning system and creative places.

Video of discussion – part one on youtube
Video of discussion – part two on youtube

Dali now works for us (visualisation by the People Speak)

Dali now works for us (visualisation by the People Speak)

Artists in public – projects and practices in Dorset (Text and Images): A comprehensive summary of public art in Dorset today, looking at projects along the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth and Portland for 2012 and throughout the county by Maggie Bolt, Director of Maggie Bolt Associates.

Wide Open Space (TextImages): Introducing the Wide Open Space programme of research and commissions, Alex Murdin, Creative Places Development Manager for the Dorset Design and Heritage Forum, sets out their rationale and thoughts on the site and location of future projects within a relational infrastructure. Includes info on WOS projects  “Road for the Future” by Anna Best on the Bridport Trailway and “Commonplaces” by Pirie and ZMMA for Shaftesbury.

Intergeneration (TextImages): Jo Joelson, London Fieldworks gives a summary of their proposal for developers CG Fry and Chickerell Town Council – a half timbered medieval house emerging from a wildflower meadow that serves as a site of mediation between historical periods and contemporary generations.

Intergenerational meeting place by London Fieldworks for Chickerell, Dorset

Intergenerational meeting place by London Fieldworks for Chickerell, Dorset

Rural Roads Protocol: Michael Pinsky and Tom Munro, Manager, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty run through the context and proposals for work which strikingly rethink the infrastructure of rural roads as new social spaces that function in harmony with a sensitive landscape.

Video of presentation – part one
Video of presentation – part two

Michael Pinsky’s proposals as pdf

Enhancing sensitive landscapes in Cumbria: Stephen Ratcliffe, Director of Planning and Partnerships, Lake District National Park discusses the steps taken by LDNP to allow contemporary art and design to flourish in one of the most treasured and protected landscapes in the UK.

Agora – audience participation session by The People Speak. No more monuments: an impromtu game show session creates three public art project by committees made up from the audience. Ideas involving memory sticks, marrows, airships, seed bombs and a well known supermarket chain highlight the move away from narrow conceptions of art as static, physical objects, to public art/art in public as a process of democratic involvement of all sections of the community in rethinking the politics of rural places.

Video of presentation – part one
Video of presentation – part two

Delegate List

Public art by post (art by committee proposal)

Public art by post (art by committee proposal)

Healthy Communities and Sustainable Places

This is the second major conference by the Dorset Design and Heritage Forum. In February 2011 it held, in partnership with Arts and Health South West and Willis Newson, a one day conference called Healthy Communities and Sustainable Places –  how can the arts reduce social isolation, improve community capital, encourage active travel and physical exercise and improve the food environment? The project showcased an inspirational range of successful and effective arts-based approaches to creating healthy and sustainable places – post conference documentation  of presentations, a review of evidence and a podcast is on the Willis Newson site here. Speakers included Adam Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts, Simon Morrissey of Foreground Projects, artist Anna Best, curator of Wide Open Space’s Road for the Future initiative, Anna Ledgard, educator and professional development leader of the Eastfeast programme, Claire Wyatt of Kilter Theatre and Katy Hallett of Sustrans.

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