"Persimmon came into the project as our main focus changed to the Ashlands side of the development in phase 2. The steering group had already established a very strong working relationship and a number of projects were in progress. Whilst the introduction of a new member to the team could have proved problematic, it in fact turned out to be very successful, with the democratic and discursive steering group welcoming a new perspective. In any case these things should evolve organically over time."
Richard Briggs, MD, Persimmon Special Projects Western
The Portishead Public Art Programme brought with it unique opportunities to discover precisely what public art means to the community of Portishead and to major stakeholders North Somerset Council and Crest Nicholson. The key challenges encountered along the way offered useful learning experiences.
Firstly the project delivers a diverse programme made up of a range of creative activity and projects over the short to long term period. Detailed long term planning, time management and financial management are crucial:
"Timelines is an example of how complicated it can all be. The complications arise due to the phasing of the project. It's a public realm project in a number of different phases with different stakeholders and players having a role to play. So we're creating a new space and trying to integrate public art into it, at the same time as actually trying to deliver the buildings themselves." Kedrick Davies, Urban Designer, North Somerset Council
"Ultimately the artworks will be adopted by the local authority on behalf of the community. It has taken 2.5 years to agree a very simple document for North Somerset Council to adopt the artworks. However we now have a model document that we can use for all purposes. It goes right the way through the commissioning to the design fee, what happens if an artist makes a proposal and we don't like it, installation, vandalism etc." Mark Hallett, Project Director, Crest Nicholson
Secondly, this initiative tested the usual administration procedures involved in the commissioning of Public Art. It showed that similar projects could be effective if the key players are open to an interactive and flexible approach:
"Gaining Local Authority consent to commission work was a powerful tool..."
"I've kept within budget and that's been good for the Public Art Strategy. We’ve learnt that you have to have a contingency. Initially we thought we could just commission the work and that was it - suddenly though you have to transport stone from Yorkshire, put foundations and lighting in. You need at least 15% contingency." Mark Hallett, Project Director, Crest Nicholson
Thirdly, members of the Selection Committee were receptive to proposals from a range of artists and external organisations. They sought to create opportunities that artists wanted to be part of, which in itself brought challenges.
"I've noticed that some artists are let down by their presentation skills. Rightly or wrongly, it is often the best organised artists who get the jobs. That's not to say we don't support those with less experience, but the ability to convince us of project management as well as artistic skills is key. Artists must deliver on time and to budget, otherwise other areas of the programme suffer." Mark Hallett, Project Director, Crest Nicholson