For centuries, cities such as our own and all over the world, have toiled with what public art represents and in whose voice it speaks. Very recently the subject of debate has raged once again with the Black Lives Matter protests and over time public art has attracted criticism, love and outrage. Think of Ivor Roberts-Jones’ Churchill with a freshly applied grass Mohican or Bruce Williams ‘Kiss Wall’- the first sculpture in the country featuring a same-sex kiss, here in the city. We all have an opinion about public art as the public so it’s important that the city council talks about it too.
Brighton & Hove lays claim as a place of artistic and cultural significance. And as we look to highlight the city’s heritage and natural environment, this strategy sets out how our sense of identity, community pride and belonging can be expressed now – and into the future – through public art.
From the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe, many wonderful gems of arts organisations are based here. A city of festivals, our city boasts hundreds of arts and creative organisations which help to define our collective sense of identity and harness the blossoming of creativity. Already this year we have seen graduates from our universities help beautify empty shop fronts with art; murals designed by young people adorn our youth centres; and our arts and culture recovery plan takes shape. It’s another reminder of the frontline value that public art brings to our communities and that art is done by, and should be for, everyone.
Public art makes cities what they are – and as we continue our focus on tackling the challenges Brighton & Hove faces, from the climate emergency to the Covid-19 crisis, we know it will play a central role. Our response to adversity has already been shaped and expressed through arts and culture, and remains a key way we understand and navigate the challenges ahead. The public art strategy is an essential tool for recovery as we continue to establish our city as a leader of the sustainable, built and natural environment, with a commitment to support our city’s cultural vibrancy.
The importance of our city’s arts sector was highlighted by the community during the consultation that now informs this strategy, the feedback unambivalent: residents and stakeholders rightfully demand a place for artists and art in our city. Therefore, I am delighted that the City Council is broadening its focus on art and engaging with artists to produce this new public art strategy which builds on the city’s existing public art, culture and heritage. It also places a stronger focus on the importance of temporary public art projects as a way to provide for community cultural expression and engagement on contemporary issues – especially sustainability.
The strategy follows a series of conversations across the city, building on these discussions, our approach is proposed as a collaboration between the city and its residents. Our shared goal: the creation of contemporary spaces that bring together nature and culture and are loved by the community and visitors.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council
Read full Public Art Strategy here.