Thursday, 13 February 2014

On Public Art

After this week's depressingly small-minded New Journal story about council investment in public art in King's Cross, here's what I think. I won't go into the omissions from the article which made it appear more sensationalist than need be - that's another discussion with the hacks but here's what I think:   

Camden has a long history of supporting public art in Camden, from Henry Moore's pieces on our housing estates to the amazing Camden Council murals committee that for 30 years funded community art, to mosaics you can find all over our public buildings, to the present day where the council takes an enlightened view to street art.

The new HQ in Pancras Square will have three works (one external and two internal in public area) using local and locally-trained artists and will involve community consultation. 

The investment is capital, not revenue (services) and - like the new leisure complex, public library and building - come at no extra cost to the taxpayer.  The installations support our creative economy and are for the public - making the building for the people (using our moto) and not a bland office block for officers.  They follow in the tradition of other public-funded art in the borough.  

Even though it might be more cost-conscious initially to paint everything in monotone grey, this wouldn't be very aesthetically pleasing to the public and note that the outside piece will appreciate in value for the taxpayer so is an asset for the future as well.  

There will always be those who question whether it is right or the 'right time' to invest in public art or arts organisations, especially during a recession/austerity, but we have a history of asking for public art in private developments, e.g. Regents Place (meaning less s106 elsewhere) and have spend regeneration money on public art in our parks and major projects, like Swiss Cottage.  

In my own ward we went the extra mile to save the mural at the old Fleet Community Centre, at some cost, because people wanted public art to be saved.

So: instead of snubbing a new benefit maybe the naturally cynical should welcome one?

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