Who is behind the Birmingham Big Art Project (BBAP)?
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham is the President of the Big Art Project, and we have the support of the Leader of Birmingham City Council -Councillor Ian Ward, as well as the Birmingham Civic Society which for over 90 years has championed civic pride, and worked to make Birmingham a better place for its citizens, visitors and workforce.
The Birmingham Big Art Foundation (BBAF) is now a registered charity and its patrons include The Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, The Bishop of Birmingham and several other leading figures from commerce, industry and the media across Birmingham and the Midlands. The patrons are also members of a Steering Committee which will help to bring this great project to fruition.
What is the timetable for this project?
A site has been identified and in May 2015 we announced a list of artists who were invited to submit their ideas. The shortlist of artists was announced in early 2016, each of whom were commissioned to produce a maquette (a small 3D model) of their idea which was displayed for public view and consultation at Millennium Point in June 2016 and in the Library of Birmingham in September 2016. The winner was announced in 2017.
Where will the artwork be sited?
Eastside City Park (and Future Curzon Station HS2 Terminus)
The site for BBAP is the western entrance to the current Eastside City Park, which has been established around the existing Millennium Point building and in relation to the future construction of Birmingham’s High Speed Railway station (HS2).
It will be a major destination and arrival point in the city and a new ‘Curzon Square’ will be created over time around the artwork. You will see from the illustrations that there will be a very large new train station, and tram line framing the square on the South side of the site.
Within Eastside City Park there is a 40 metre by 12.5 metre area which currently contains two grass squares as identified in the Birmingham City Council plan by a red dashed line. The artwork was ultimately to be located within the boundaries of this site. The land is owned by Birmingham City Council (BCC) but may become the responsibility of HS2 in the future.
We are now able to locate the artwork closer to The Woodman pub and the old Curzon Station building directly without need for the temporary site as previously mentioned. We are currently awaiting new detailed drawings from BCC planners to pass on to you. We attach an updated drawing showing the potential scope overlapping with the two grass squares mentioned above.
Adjacent to the site, on the Eastern side, sits The Woodman Pub (1897) and the Curzon Street Station (1838), the oldest railway terminus in the world, an imposing neo classical building. Further to the East of Eastside City Park is the new ‘Parkside’ campus of Birmingham City University and the Conservatoire. To the North is Birmingham Ormston Academy, an Academy for creative, digital and performing arts. To the West of the park is the ongoing city centre. To the South is Digbeth which contains a number of arts and media organisations, mixed with light industry and retail in a developing industrial area of the city centre.
What sort of artwork are we talking about?
The BBAP aims to commission an internationally significant work of public contemporary art that is:
- High quality
- Low in maintenance
- Relevant to its location
- Imaginative, interesting and thought-provoking
- Adding to the city’s cultural offer
- Highly photogenic and interactive, so that people can do more than just view it!
How would you summarise the principal aims of this Project?
The Birmingham Big Art Foundation is commissioning a major new work of public art for the city of Birmingham in partnership with The Birmingham Civic Society.
Eastside Projects are the commissioning agents, responsible for curating the process and artwork. They will work closely with a Selection Panel of experts in the fields of contemporary and public art throughout this process.
The Birmingham Big Art Project believes that art is a vital part of our city’s past, present and future. We imagine a new public artwork can support and expand the idea of a 21st century city, develop new myths and perform an iconic function within Birmingham. We want an artist to engage with many layers of Birmingham, translating them into objects, scenarios or events that can produce new histories and possible futures.
We believe that Birmingham needs to invest in permanent and temporary public artworks that animate the city in unexpected and memorable ways. The BBAP will work towards creating a new image for Birmingham as a place that has art and ideas at its core.
We aim to work with the best artist(s) who are making outstanding work of their time. We see the BBAP as a key element in the ongoing making of Birmingham as an exciting and challenging environment for people to live and work in.
We understand the tradition of art to question what art is, can be, should be and why? Birmingham should be engaging with and demanding these questions. Our city is a vibrant and diverse metropolis and we should be confident about dealing with difference and oppositions as much as synergy.
We are not looking to commission a one size fits all public artwork; the new artwork could create a community as much as be designed for one; it might interrupt not embellish our city; it may give us a chance to imagine alternative ways of living. The artwork may be for the people and made with the people but the artist will be the author. Everyone who experiences the new artwork should want to tell someone else about it.
How do you select the right artists for the competition to ensure a truly great public work of art is produced?
We aim to work with the best artist(s) who are making outstanding work of their time. We see the Birmingham Big Art Project as a key element in the ongoing development of Birmingham as an exciting and challenging environment for people to live and work in. Using their knowledge and expertise in the field of public art, Eastside Projects and a Selection Panel of professionals from the art world will draw up a long list of 20 artists for the BBAP. They will seek to select a broad range of artists for further consideration, with ethnic diversity and breadth of approach both high on the agenda. Outstanding local artists, as well as those from further afield will be considered.
After discussion, the group will then draw up a list of 10 artists for continued consideration.
In June 2015 we approached the selected 10 artists with information about the commission including potential sites, the fee budget and we asked for an expression of interest. This was a broad outline of an approach to the project rather than one specific or final idea.
The commissioned artist had to:
- Develop a depth of engagement with the site and its history and people.
- Question the nature of what art in the public realm can be.
- Analyse, update and question an idea of permanence within the context of a city.
- Develop a work that contributes to a sense of place but may question the character or attributes of its location.
- Demonstrate experience relevant to delivering their proposed work.
In January 2016, a shortlist of five artists recommended by the Selection Panel was considered by the Steering Group. Models of their work were made prior to being put on public display and consultation in the Birmingham library.
The artwork will be for the people and made with the people, but the artist will be the author.
Everyone who experiences the new artwork should want to tell someone else about it.
Why does Birmingham need another public work of art?
Its present works are not of high enough quality for the second city in the UK.
The city’s offer in terms of its public art is limited.
The city needs a new work of high quality to help market itself globally to attract both tourism and inward investment.
By inviting all communities to become involved in this project, we hope to instil a greater sense of ownership and pride in the city.
A truly great work will become the catalyst for encouraging wider interest in the city’s other cultural gems such as the theatre, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, its museums and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The work will encourage educational opportunity in our local schools and art classes at colleges and universities.
Creative skills are one of the drivers of the West Midlands’ economy.
We had a very positive comment recently from the European Commissioner for Culture, Mrs Androulla Vassiliou:
“As we have seen with the example of the Angel of the North, public art can be a powerful symbol for a community and city, I am happy to hear that Birmingham is encouraging the public to help raise funds for the Birmingham Big Art Project. Empowering citizens through culture is a positive way of engaging the local community. Whether large or small, I hope Birmingham picks a work that will make the public proud, stand the test of time and act as a magnet for cultural tourism.”
An addition to Birmingham’s cultural offer in the form of an iconic piece of public art will encourage tourism, youth and educational interest, business growth and employment, particularly from inward investment. In particular, it will enhance Birmingham’s reputation as forward thinking and innovative and help to promote its name around the world. All of these benefits and more have been generated by, for example, Cloudgate, the Little Mermaid, the Statue of Liberty and the Angel of the North, which are all on a ‘must see’ list for tourists.
So why support a new public work of art rather than supporting worthy causes such as Cancer Research or Children in Need?
We do not wish funds to be diverted from worthy humane causes. But we do believe we owe it to present and future generations to add to Birmingham’s cultural attraction in a global marketplace. This will encourage tourism and inward investment, increase educational interest and attract wider interest in Birmingham’s total cultural offer.
The project is about demonstrating Birmingham’s ambition to be better, creating a new opportunity for people to want to visit, work and live here; to develop a stronger sense of good citizenship, pride and ownership.
We want the project to be about all this and more – the bringing together of all of our diverse communities by inviting them to be involved in this Big Art Project from the outset.
How can we be so sure the new public work of art will meet the aspirations of the diverse communities of which Birmingham is so proud?
This is a public artwork. Its audience is multifaceted; it should be for many publics. It is for the people of Birmingham and for international audiences, both art specialist and not.
We achieve this by spreading the word throughout all communities of our intention to make their city and this region a focal point, encouraging pride and ownership through their involvement at all stages of the project.
It is only by close involvement by the diverse communities which co-exist in Birmingham that we shall succeed in shaping a brand new public work of art which meets the aspirations of all. Such close involvement will bring a willingness to understand this civic ambition and an appreciation that this second city in the UK deserves a quality addition to its present cultural offer.
The work will be of such high quality and relevance that new opportunities to market Birmingham and the region will open up. Under the guidance of The Birmingham Big Art Foundation, a charitable trust registered with the Charity Commission, funding will be sought and the work’s future maintenance will be secured.
When completed, we believe the commissioned work will encourage greater numbers of people from diverse societies to seek out other premium cultural attractions this city has to offer and should become a catalyst for more community projects.
Where will the money come from for this project?
We anticipate raising funds from organisations and individuals who can see the benefits of our project to everyone in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, across every community and business sector. We are aiming to raise at least £2m to make this project a reality.
Money will not come from public funds which should, quite rightly be used for housing, roads, schooling, hospitals and other vital services. Nor will our fundraising affect other charitable causes such as disadvantaged children, the sick or the homeless because many businesses already include corporate social responsibility in their budgets.
We want EVERYONE IN BIRMINGHAM to become stakeholders in the Birmingham Big Art Project; this means that everyone has an interest in its successful outcome.
What are the benefits of becoming a corporate sponsor?
We know you have a product or service to promote and to sell, and your corporate exposure will be maximised and enhanced by your association with this most prestigious work. The Birmingham Big Art Project has an inherent publicity value, and it will be publicised widely, both locally and nationally. Promotion of the project means promotion of the sponsor’s positive public profile which in turn promotes your products or services.
Tangible support for the creation of this major piece of high-quality public art for Birmingham is just plain good business! Employees will be proud of your firm’s cultural support; potential customers gain a more favourable image of your business, and communities are strengthened by the common interest to create a more vibrant image of Birmingham. Association with our excellent project will dovetail with your marketing objectives and help deliver direct commercial returns.