"I have always worked with communities when producing artworks.” Michael Disley, Artist
Early on in the programme, stone carver Michael Disley spent a year on-site working from a purpose built artist’s studio, gradually building relations with both the community and site staff. A strong communicator, Michael helped to open up dialogue with the community and introduce the concept of the public art programme. Responses were strong, as people began to share their knowledge and memories of Portishead. Much of his resulting work relates directly to the researched history and heritage of the brownfield site and Portishead itself.
"Only a few clues are given with each piece such as F.W. on the siren piece relating to Fred Weatherley who wrote the lyrics to 'Danny Boy' and came from Portishead. 'Shipshape' celebrates the training vessel which was moored nearby, the quote on the plinth is Tennyson and used when the ship was opened by Charles Kingsley (who wrote 'The Waterbabies')." Michael Disley, Artist
In 2004, Portishead Primary School relocated to a new site adjacent to Portishead Quays, sharing a common boundary and view of the Dockside. Designer/blacksmith Matthew Fedden, in conjunction with printmaker Steve Hyslop, worked with two groups of pupils in the school to create prints about their sense of Portishead as a place. Matthew subsequently designed and fabricated steel gateways and railings for the new school, based on the motion of the waves and simple boat shapes.
"The first challenge was to do something meaningful with the school which would stimulate them and which would allow them to explore what artists do and what artists are. To look at their environment, but not necessarily reflect our work in the school railings - which I regarded as separate. The work had a value in itself; it wasn't a means to an end.”
Matthew Fedden, Artist
Jason Lane was chosen by the Arts Council of England South West for one of the prestigious 'Year of the Artists Awards 2000' to produce work in a non-gallery context. The residency took place in an old warehouse, donated by Crest Nicholson, where scrap metal was transformed into a range of weird and wonderful artefacts from functional elements such as seating to fully working robotic creatures. Responses to the resulting exhibition (also held in the warehouse) were excellent.
Efforts have been made to consult the wider community on potential artworks whenever possible. The 'Timelines Competition' invited artists to commemorate the site of the original Parish Wharf high-tide mark at the head of the High Street, through artwork that would physically connect the established town and the new development.
The competition, themed 'time, tide and memories', was advertised nationally and attracted 65 applications from artists throughout Europe. Shortlisted candidates exhibited their proposals in the Folk Hall, Portishead, where the public were welcomed to meet the artists and discuss their proposals. Their feedback had a major influence on determining the steering group's final decision. Designer / jeweller, Marianne Forrest, triumphed with her imaginative proposal of three sculptural sites connected by a curving line of light set into the paving.
This project, arising from a partnership between the Public Art Steering Group, the Royal British Legion and community of Portishead, was designed to celebrate Portishead’s rich nautical heritage. The result - a contemporary artwork that looks out across the Bristol Channel as a marker for all seafarers, past, present and future.
Lead artist Michael Dan Archer hosted two open evenings with the community as part of the research process, gathering ideas and information that were integrated into his final artwork.
“We have had some excellent comments from the general public that reveal real understanding of what we're trying to achieve through the public art programme." Mark Hallet, Project Director, Crest Nicholson