Public Art in an Urban Landscape

‘Art on a Public Mantelpiece: Public Art, Community Identity, and Mark-Making In Stoke-on-Trent’s Urban Landscape’  by Kathryn Walker MA FRAI

Abstract – “This ethnographic study explores how art located in a public space may impact upon people who use and inhabit that space. Using a qualitative approach, through semi-structured interviews and observation of participants, this research aims to understand the underlying factors that inspire public art development, and to investigate the impact and effects that the placement of public art has upon the community and landscape in which it inhabits. Within the chosen field site Stoke-on-Trent, a key objective is to explore whether public art is able to aid in the enhancement and redevelopment of an area of urban regeneration. Responses from participants, who are involved in the production and decision-making for installing public artwork, as well as randomly selected members of the public, give first-hand insight into theoretical perspectives. Thematic analysis of narratives allows for exploration on topics of place, landscape, identity, elitism and community. It is revealed that public art does impact upon a community and this research argues that public art: socially, culturally, economically and geographically has a positive influence enabling shared identity and offering cultural identification that extends further than its physical and structural visual form.”

A copy of this dissertation may be found at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.

liz and sal and isis!

Photograph of  ‘The Goddess Isis’ statue, Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire.

The following is an extract from Chapter 2: ‘Public Art Making Marks in the Landscape’ by Kathryn Walker

“The potential influence a piece of public artwork has should be heeded as it is able to even subtly impact upon humans, whether the concept of its purpose is understood or not, it’s physicality ensures that interaction and communication of whatever intent is felt through the presence it has materialistically or the questions it incites due to its presence in a space. However, it is due to people’s different interpretations of such public artwork, and the greater accessibility of the artwork in a public space that confirms the elitist hegemony is changing and contested.” 

The following is an extract from chapter 5 ‘On Objects, Art and Agency’ by Kathryn Walker:

“When Berger, J (1969) wrote about sculpture becoming a monument he said that the viewer: “perceive a total opposition between the sculpture and the surrounding space and translate its promise into terms of time. It will stand against time as it stands against space.” (Berger, J.1969:74). Berger shows that the function of a monument is only to use its space in a way that confers meaning upon it; it is finite, unmoving and open to the viewer’s interpretation over time. Therefore the meaning of the space in which it stands is relative according to the viewer.”





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