Workshop five - public art with Jennie Savage

On the 7th of July, the Architecture Centre hosted the fifth Shape My City session of 2016. The theme of the week was public art and we were joined by Jennie Savage, an artist who is currently collaborating with the Architecture Centre to help them celebrate their 20th birthday.

The session began with a card sort of various images to do with public art. The groups (rather small this week due to post exam holidays!) were told to arrange the cards in any way they saw fit, and then pick their favourites. Among the favourites were: some trees wrapped in wool (yarn bombing); a dining table (community shared feast), with no obvious purpose; and a large jet of water squirting above a park (man made geyser).

The focus of the session then turned to Jennie, who went on to tell us about her career as an artist. She told us how she had begun by doing a foundation year and then doing a degree at Cardiff University, but interestingly she noted that it was her part time job at a gallery that allowed her to realise her dream of becoming an artist. From there she went on to tell us about her first project, a community radio programme (Star Radio) recorded by the people of Cardiff itself, and it was this, she said, that got her onto the public art scene.

More than this, however, she said that she loved being able to see the people interact with her art, and thus showed us that the process can be just as important as the final product. Jennie also handed out some leaflets to the group entitled ‘Sounding City’, asking us to fill them out to help her complete her next project, which is going to be based upon the city of Bristol. What Jennie stressed the most, much to the amusement of the group, was that “if you want a steady income, don’t become an artist!”

The talk was followed by the main activity, which caused some extra excitement this week as we were told that our brief was actually real! Our task was to design a temporary installation for the Architecture Centre’s birthday weekend party, accompanied by an activity which both adults and children would be able to engage with. As there weren’t very many of us, we were told to come up with an individual idea, and then to discuss them in pairs.

The first outcome was a building activity, whereby people could build a small pixie-style dwelling that could then be attached to one of the large trees outside the Architecture Centre, with the aim that it would help people to access their creativity and build up rather than out, and so work in a slightly different dimension. The second idea was a large temporary castle, possibly made of cardboard, which people could play in and around, and generally have a play at being someone different. The queen of the harbour side perhaps? The third response was one involving a prebuilt structure with lots of adornments. The idea behind this response was that people could then take away and deconstruct the installation and build new things out of its parts, enabling a spread of creativity to access different parts of the city. The final outcome was a simple, geometric structure that visitors could play on and decorate as they felt. Overall, the responses all had a family friendly environment in mind, with a focus toward group creativity.

The next session will take place in September and will continue to focus on the Fun Palace inspired design task for the Architecture Centre’s 20th birthday Weekender party on 25 September.

This blog post has been written by Shape My City participant Martha Eustace.