Public Art is often the glue that begins to knit the existing and the new communities together, and the powerful elements that give a new neighbourhood its distinctive character – clearly something which housebuilders, including Countryside, are recognising. Increasingly, there is research evidence demonstrating the significant benefits to well-being, to long-term effects of modernisation and distinctiveness that well-conceived public art projects can achieve with community engagement.
Wickhurst Green in West Sussex, is one such example of a prestigious new housing scheme where ATA have developed the strategy and led the commissioning of the public art. Horsham District Council and Broadbridge Heath Parish Council, along with Countryside, have proved important partners for the project. Councillors have helped to select the artists and approved the type of project they will work towards. Artists Will Nash and Tim Ward have been commissioned. The local schools and community groups are excited to be working with them on a programme of workshops that the artists have put together. The designs and workshop materials will be exhibited locally as part of the programme, later in the year.
The exciting part of the process is in allowing the artists to explore the geography of the site, the history of the area, the aspirations of the community and to allow the artists scope to respond to all these influences.
The role of the commissioner for public art is a bit like the orienteering navigator using clues and a compass to find the path, work out the questions and answers at different points and deliver the solution at the end without running over or spending too much money! There is a tremendous amount of skill and knowledge required to put together a strategy that fits with the desires of both the house-builder, and the Local Authority. It is crucial therefore to identify the right artists to fulfil the brief in a creative and original way, creating something beautiful and of good quality, that will have a lasting impact and will complement the architecture and landscape of each new neighbourhood and its surrounding homes.