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Burnley

'Local hero' Abdul Salek a local musician and youth worker with his 'Invisible' portrait created by greyworld and 15 local teenagers

'Local hero' Abdul Salek a local musician and youth worker with his Invisible portrait created by greyworld and 15 local teenagers

The Burnley team has unveiled the first of the Big Art Project commissions, a riot of colour that magically comes to life all around the town. Invisible, by the acclaimed UK arts collective greyworld working with 15 local teenagers, involves a series of paintings that can only be seen when lit from an ultraviolet source.

The subjects and styles of the paintings are varied: there are movie-style posters; images of animals, birds and insects; comic scenes; and a series of 'local heroes', who range from the Burnley FC mascot to a Big Issue seller, a community worker, a head teacher and a local actor and dramatist.

greyworld's Big Art Project lights up Burnley's night-time town-centre streets

greyworld's Big Art Project lights up Burnley's night-time town-centre streets

Along with curator Kerenza Hines, the young people were responsible for selecting greyworld in the first place. 'We have all learnt so much about public art and it has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,' says Sam, 14.

For greyworld, the feeling is mutual. 'It has been a fantastic experience for us to work with such an inspiring and creative group of young people,' says Andrew Shoben. 'Always open to new ideas, they also had really clear views on what they wanted for the Big Art Project in Burnley.'

Burnley was originally nominated by Chris May, of Creative Partnerships East Lancashire. He and Burnley Borough Council then worked with a steering group of organisations from the community arts and regeneration fields. Along with curator Kerenza Hines, Youth Engagement Officer Paul Hartley completed the team.

The Burnley young people's group with curator Kerenza Hines (middle row, left) and at the back Youth Engagement Officer Paul Hartley (left) and greyworld lead artist Andrew Shoben

The Burnley young people's group with curator Kerenza Hines (middle row, left) and at the back Youth Engagement Officer Paul Hartley (left) and greyworld lead artist Andrew Shoben

But the young people were the stars of the show. 'This is public art commissioning with the public well and truly at its heart,' said Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor, Arts and Performance at Channel 4.

Channel 4's project partners agreed. 'The enthusiasm of these young people in Burnley shows exactly how art can create a sense of belonging and pride in the places where we live, and improve our quality of life,' said Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England.

In one of a number of projected film posters, a giant spider crawls across the town's masonry

In one of a number of projected film posters, a giant spider crawls across the town's masonry

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, also stressed the central role of local communities. 'The Big Art Project demonstrates in a radically new way the power of art to transform people's lives,' he said. 'And what is most exceptional is that the choosing, commissioning and creating of these artworks is driven by local people.'

  • This spring Channel 4 briefed some of the young people involved with the Big Art Project in Burnley to make trails for the series launch. A group of girls and a group of boys wrote scripts, filmed them, and came down to London to cut their trails in a post-production house. View the boys' trail: Trailers and Tribulations | View the girls' trail: Beating Art of Burnley
  • Burnley 's young people have created their own project website at www.bigartpro.co.uk.
  • You can download a map of the paintings here. Please note that the paintings are only visible after dark during the autumn and winter.

For more about greyworld, see artist profiles.

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Isle of Mull

The Inner Hebridean Isle of Mull attracted interested artists from Berlin to Arizona

The Inner Hebridean Isle of Mull attracted interested artists from Berlin to Arizona

Celebrated Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s proposal for Mull is being developed and delivered by the Tobermory Forward Group, a new organisation formed as a result of an initiative by Argyll and Bute Council. The group provides a direct link between the council and the community. Funding applications for the project have been submitted and there are plans for the artist to return to present his idea to the wider community.

The prospect of working on a commission on Mull attracted a lot of interest. Hein first visited Mull in 2006, and another visit, in the summer of 2008, allowed an extended period of research in order to develop a proposal. 'My idea is to place a continuing bench all around the island, although it will only be visible in certain places,' he explains. 'A series of different bench designs will be connected to an imaginary line of benches running along the island.'

Danish artist Jeppe Hein was chosen for Mull's Big Art Project

Danish artist Jeppe Hein was chosen for Mull's Big Art Project

Visual Arts Officer Lee Hendrick originally nominated Mull for the Big Arts Project, hoping that art could unite this geographically dispersed island community.

Guided by curator Patricia Fleming, the community steering group's brief was clear. 'We all know Mull is beautiful – the commission is not attempting to convey this to the world,' says Patricia. 'The purpose is not to create something to increase tourism, nor to address social problems or notions of regeneration. This is an open commission to make art for art's sake. There is a strong feeling of "linking" the communities in some way: a gathering place for the community, a shared experience. The group was looking for a proposal that would respond to the pulse of the island and its community.'

For more about Jeppe Hein, see artist profiles.

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Newham, east London

Beckton site nominators visit the Millennium Dome to see <em>Quantum Cloud</em> (1999) by Antony Gormley (in background). From left: Jonathan Swan and Stacy Blanc with curator David Bailey

Beckton site nominators visit the Millennium Dome to see Quantum Cloud (1999) by Antony Gormley (in background). From left: Jonathan Swan and Stacy Blanc with curator David Bailey

The London Borough of Newham, one of the city's most economically deprived and ethnically diverse areas, is already under an international spotlight as the host borough for the Olympic Games. However, Jonathan Swan, a city banker, and Stacy Blanc, a student and single mum, both think it is art more than the Olympics that will bring lasting benefit to Newham.

They nominated Beckton Alp, a former spoil heap alongside the A13 that enjoyed a second incarnation as an artificial ski-slope but is now derelict. It is the highest point in Newham and has astonishing views over London. The nominators, working with curator David A Bailey, established a proposal for the Alp as a plinth for an iconic artwork. However, the complex issues of site ownership, and the compromised physical integrity of the site, led to a decision not to proceed with that concept.

muf art architecture were then commissioned to deliver an artist authored temporary project to leave a legacy for Beckton Alp and allow for the development of a significant commission with a longer timeframe.

Muf's approach was 'to develop a project that will proactively involve a range of individuals and groups – from the decision makers, councillors and officers, the investors, developers, and the users of shared public places – in a critical evaluation of what it takes to create art works that are relevant and valued within their communities.' They initiated a three-month research residency in a Portacabin on site, creating a profile of use as a brief for the future restoration of the Alp as a viable and valued asset. From this emerged a concept for the Alp – not as a pedestal for an iconic artwork, but with the Alp as the iconic artwork itself.

The proposed design embedded the industrial history and subsequent use of the site and created a landscape of the sublime and of adventure. Innovative bioremediation and renewable energy technology will drive the process to restore the Alp as a fully accessible landscape, a unique landmark of genuine recreational and educational value to the immediate neighbourhood and a highly visible flagship project for the borough and wider area.

'One of the things that has always excited me about the Beckton Alp,' said Jonathan Swan, 'is the "wow!" factor – the almost invariable reaction from those who visit the site and encounter the fabulous and unexpected view across the borough. As it became apparent that Big Art would not be proceeding as originally conceived, I think, with muf's work, we had the opportunity to reflect on the nature of the Alp itself. One of the things I have learned from my "art journey" is that modern art justifies itself through a process of "making people look at things differently", and in this sense we can change our perspective from being the Alp as the location for an artwork into the Alp being the art in itself.

'One of the most constant themes received in the feedback from the public involved in the exercise has been the level of affection people have for the Beckton Alp, and the role it has played in their personal histories. I think that the work that muf has been undertaking in the area has provided a sound basis for a greater recognition of the Alp in the cultural history and geography of the Beckton area, and that with the ongoing remediation of the site it won't simply become another open space or park, but becomes a community asset with a genuine value of its own.'

For more about muf, see artist profiles.

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North Belfast

A view across Waterworks Park in Belfast

A view across Waterworks Park in Belfast

The Waterworks Park is the only green area in this part of North Belfast – an area of the city which has experienced deprivation and division. Local community representatives decided they wanted to transform the neglected Park into a community resource and an 'arts' space for everyone, especially young people.

'There may be no "innocent" space in Northern Ireland,' said curator Declan McGonagle. 'The public domain has been heavily contested, which has contributed to difficulties in communication and in creating meeting points between communities, especially in periods of outright conflict. Yet, I would say that art at its best, historically, has always been about communication rather than simply self-expression and, in Big Art, we are setting out to create a process, and ultimately a space in the Waterworks Park, where art and communities can meet and communicate productively.'

The local steering group, which includes Youth Arts Co-ordinator and site nominator Katrina Newell, selected a proposal by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Obussier to create a sculptural 'third space' – an elevated space for public use between the two Park lakes, as a metaphor of transformation.

The proposed work 'Northern Light' takes the form of a glazed room/ meeting space/ sculpture. The concept behind this work is to create a transparent room that is lit strongly by a source of neon light. It is intended that the structure be situated between the two reservoirs (upper and lower) in the Waterworks Park. The aim of the project is that the structure comes out from the higher level (the top of the dam), over the lower level on a jetty of some sort supported by 'legs', and seems to hover or feel suspended over the lower reservoir.

The Big Art Project team films the artists Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier next to their installation 'Outhouse' in Wooton, Merseyside

The Big Art Project team films the artists Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier next to their installation Outhouse in Wooton, Merseyside

Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier have said of their proposal: 'The drive of this project is to bring people together, to generate, exchange, ideas and perhaps a new language around the possibility of creating a new space: a "third space" beyond polarised territories. The piece would propose an embodiment of this. As artists, in this very particular context, part of our role is that of translators: we seek to "translate" the ideas, feelings and thoughts of the community into a rigorous, uncompromised piece of art.'

For more about Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, see artist profiles.

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Cardigan

Prince Charles Quay in Cardigan, Wales

Prince Charles Quay in Cardigan, Wales

The Cardigan team has now secured funding for Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Turbulence, an interactive installation on the River Teifi. 'We are proceeding with the procurement of both the artwork and the refurbishment of the Strand,' says project curator Wiard Sterk, Executive Director of Public Art, Wales. 'We hope to complete both, as well as the trials of the work, by around May or June 2010, to coincide with Cardigan's 900 years celebrations.'

The team is continuing to raise funds for a public engagement project, future maintenance and additional activities, including the commissioning of sound works to be recorded onto Turbulence.

Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Cardigan

Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Cardigan

The installation will comprise a cluster of 127 buoys supported by a sunken hull attached to two moorings. The buoys will contain LED light sources and a loudspeaker. Along the quayside, microphones will record the voices of passers-by, store them within the buoys and set off the lights. Audio playback will be triggered when the river becomes turbulent.

'The piece is intended as a reflection on Welsh oral traditions, poetry and song,' says Lozano-Hemmer, who built his reputation with enormous, hi-tech, interactive works for public spaces. He describes Turbulence as 'a playful participative platform that is activated by the natural cycles of tides'.

A computer-generated impression of 'Turbulence' in Cardigan Bay

A computer-generated impression of Turbulence in Cardigan Bay

Jim Evans, the site's nominator, managed the regeneration of the Prince Charles Quay and heads a group of local Cardigan enthusiasts keen to promote eco-tourism in this beautiful spot. 'The whole estuary is designated an area of scientific importance because it is so special in terms of wildlife,' he says. 'My prime objective is to return it to some kind of economic activity without despoiling what it is. It's quite a tightrope to walk'. The project was given the go-ahead after a scientific report found that it would have no adverse impact on fish species.

See also the Cardigan team's own website at www.cardiganbigart.com.

For more about Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, see artist profiles.

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St.Helens

Artist Jaume Plensa standing in front of 'Dream' as it nears completion at the St.Helen's Big Art Project site

Artist Jaume Plensa standing in front of Dream as it nears completion at the St.Helen's Big Art Project site

On 21 April 2009 the final piece of Jaume Plensa's Dream was lowered into place on the site of the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens, next to the M62, where it will be seen by millions of motorists each year. The work was an immediate hit with public and critics alike and went on to win the prestigious Marsh Award for Public Sculpture 2009.

The spectacular 20-metre-high sculpture, portraying the head of a girl with her eyes closed, is the artist's response to a brief developed through conversations with ex-miners and members of the wider local community. The aim was to create a piece that looked forward as well as back and created a beautiful, contemplative space for future generations. Dream is fabricated in pre-cast concrete, with a almost luminescent finish of white marble and concrete aggregate, in marked contrast to the black of the coal that still lies below.

Gary Conley, ex-miner and one of the original site nominators (right) and the artist with the on-site team who installed the landmark sculpture

Gary Conley, ex-miner and one of the original site nominators (right) and the artist with the on-site team who installed the landmark sculpture (photo: Arkangel http://www.bigartmob.com/blog/arkangel/)

Gary Conley, one of the former miners, described how the team's ambitions evolved. 'When we were approached, we would have been happy to just have a memorial erected. Now, following our Big Art journey, our eyes have been opened to what art could mean to a community. Thanks to this fantastic artist, Jaume Plensa, I believe we have a piece of art that will not only reflect the past heritage of the site but also projects it into the future.'

'Dream' towers over the former Sutton Manor colliery site

Dream towers over the former Sutton Manor colliery site

Born in Barcelona, Jaume Plensa was the unanimous choice to undertake the commission, under the guidance of curator Laurie Peake, Programme Director for Public Art at Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art. The Big Art Project in St.Helens was delivered by St.Helens Council in partnership with Arts Council England and the Art Fund. It was also supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the European Regional Development Fund, the Forestry Commission, the St.Helens Local Enterprise Growth Initiative, and the Northwest Coalfield Communities Regeneration Programme. No council-tax money was involved.

'I hope that it will be a very relaxing and inspiring place,' says Plensa, 'and that people say to one another: "Let's meet at Dream". That is when I will know it is a success.'

More pics from the launch of Dream at Arkangel's page on the Big Art Mob at http://www.bigartmob.com/blog/arkangel/

Visit http://www.dreamsthelens.com, the new website dedicated to Dream – Jaume Plensa's landmark sculpture on the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens.

For more about Jaume Plensa, see artist profiles.

Teacher Eamon Beirne standing in front of Jaume Plensa's 'Dream'

Dream of freedom: Local teacher Eamon Beirne standing in front of Jaume Plensa's Dream. Eamon, now a deputy head in Huyton, Merseyside, recently returned with photographer Ian MacDonald to the site of the former colliery where he began his working life. His impressions were particular and striking: he told Ian it was as if the head had pushed its way through the ground, and that arms, trunk and legs were struggling to free themselves beneath. To Eamon, Dream suggested the sensation of being underground and wishing perpetually to be free, the youthful head symbolising the dreamlike quality of such freedom.

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Sheffield

Big Art Project supporters in Sheffield campaign unsuccessfully to save the disused cooling towers at Tinsley

Big Art Project supporters in Sheffield campaign unsuccessfully to save the disused cooling towers at Tinsley

Tom Keeley and Tom James nominated two disused cooling towers at Blackburn Meadows, Tinsley, Sheffield. These iconic 76-metre high cooling towers, just 17 metres from the M1, were the first things that most people saw on entering Sheffield. Described as 'the Stonehenge of the carbon age' by Antony Gormley, the tower's future – and the future of this site's Big Art Project – was always hanging in the balance as owners, E.ON Energy, had them ear-marked for demolition.

The two Toms and the towers they championed

The two Toms and the towers they championed

'They're next to the M1 so they've got the biggest audience in the world. They're a gateway to the north,' said Tom Keeley.

The Tinsley cooling towers against a South Yorkshire skyline

The Tinsley cooling towers against a South Yorkshire skyline

Over a period of two years the nominators worked with Sheffield City Council in an attempt to promote public art development driven and influenced by local people. However, the council, community and stakeholders, with E.ON Energy, were not able establish a working group to drive the proposal along, and the Big Art proposal for 'destination art' never came to fruition.

The Campaign's limited edition of ceramics celebrating the Towers sold out within an hour

The Campaign's limited edition of ceramics celebrating the Towers sold out within an hour

As a parting gesture in Spring 2008, a limited edition of ceramics celebrating the Towers was commissioned and sold out within an hour of their sale.

On August bank holiday 2008 the Towers were demolished by E.ON.

Tom James and Tom Keeley have both now left Sheffield.

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Other news

Big Art Mob scoops award

The Big Art Mob has won the Community Engagement Award at the first Media Guardian Awards for Innovation (MEGAS).

The MEGAS judges, chaired by Peter Bazalgette, former Chief Creative Officer of Big Brother producers Endemol, said that the Big Art Mob 'realised the best of a community experience: collaboration, culture, portability and democratisation'. The project encourages members of the public to send in photos to the Big Art Mob page on this website, via a mobile phone or computer, in order to create the first comprehensive map of public art across the UK.

The Big Art Mob faced strong competition for the award. 'In our first year we had more than 400 entries,' says Jane Martinson, Media Editor of the Guardian. 'The standards were high throughout, suggesting that the pace of change in the industry over the past year has put innovation centre-stage.'

The Big Art Mob has been winning recognition from across the industry. It was nominated for the 2008 BAFTA Interactivity Award, alongside Dr Who, The X Factor and the eventual winner, Spooks. And at the end of 2007, the project won the 'On the Move' Royal Television Society Innovations Award. The judges on that occasion described the Big Art Mob as 'a creative project that encourages almost everyone to get involved… a large-scale example of television production in your pocket.'

Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner for Channel 4, called the accolades 'a fantastic present for Channel 4 in its 25th anniversary year'.

'Partnership has been in the DNA of the Channel from its first day,' Gee said, 'and I'd like to thank our fabulous partners at Moblog:tech, Edition and Carbon Media for their outstanding work on the Big Art Mob – and for making it such a fun project to work on. You can sense that in every pixel on the screen.'

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Breath of Fresh Air – Parka joins Big Art Mob

Glaswegian punk-poppers Parka

Photos on the Big Art Mob include contributions from Glaswegian punk-poppers Parka.

Named after the 60s Mod must-have accessory/outer garment, the band kicked off its posting with photos from Glasgow and Bedford Square in London.

The Bedford Square pic captures the sign for a modern art exhibition: a series of inflatable letters spelling out the word 'Fresh'. Parka's lead vocalist, Matty, explained the image like this: 'I love the idea of an inflatable Fresh. I guess it's got something to do with the word Fresh being filled with air – Fresh Air.'

The image they've chosen from their hometown of Glasgow is a piece of graffiti from a side street off Maryhill Road. Matty again: 'I love this piece just because it's so vibrant. I really liked Mylo's Destroy Rock'n'Roll graffiti that was everywhere a few years back and we've just made some Parka stencils that we've been giving out at gigs… we're going to get into soooo much trouble!'

See Parka's Big Art Moblog page >>

The band, which formed in 2005, is keen on the whole notion of public art in its various forms: 'To us public art is a really personal thing. What one person might think is vandalism might be a work of art to someone else. It depends what you notice and how you react to it.'

For more about the band, check out www.parkamusic.com.

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