Case Study: Public Art in Southwark
Southwark Council worked with UAL graduates from Camberwell College of Arts, Chelsea College of Arts and London College of Communication to launch an open consultation with local residents to shape the borough's new Public Art Policy.
After publishing a public pledge on how the council would work to become an anti-racist organisation, Southwark planned to launch a public consultation to ensure the new Public Art Policy would be representative of the diverse community living and working in the borough. The council reached out to UAL Colleges based in the area to co-create a process on how to incorporate the voices from the communities directly in the development of the new policy.
“The council is here to facilitate and enable conversations. It's not up to us to say 'this is how public art should look in Southwark' — that's why we want to have many different voices and hear what the community think,” says Councillor Alice Macdonald, Cabinet Member for Equalities, Neighbourhoods and Leisure in Southwark.
UAL graduates from Graphic Design and Communication courses worked together to device a social media campaign and produce a series of posters to be displayed on bus shelters across Southwark.
Carolyn Cheng, BA (Hons) Graphic Design Communication graduate from Chelsea College of Arts, explains the design rationale was directly influenced by open-space conversations with residents from the borough: “We managed to speak to people of different ages and ethnicities, which was a really insightful start to the process and informed our copy for the posters.”
The group decided to use quotes captured during those conversations, which encapsulated the sentiments of the community towards public art in the borough. The typographic design came to life with the selected quotes alongside an impactful call-to-action inviting residents to take part in the consultation process for the new Public Art Policy.
“The outcomes are testimony to how the process worked. Engaging with the community allowed us as designers to see things from a different perspective, and to understand the communities' vision for the borough,” says Kyle Rodrigues, graduate from BA (Hons) Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Arts.
Coinciding with the launch of the public survey on Southwark Council's website, the posters were displayed at bus shelters around different areas in Southwark, including Elephant and Castle, Peckham and Rotherhithe. The campaign also traveled around the borough on a digivan, displaying a digital version of the posters.
According to the council, a total of 912 people participated in the online consultation to voice their opinions on how they perceive public art in the borough — from sculptures representing historical figures to street names. The responses generated from the survey will be used to inform the new Public Art Policy, which will reconsider how art displayed in Southwark represents the community.
"We have so much creativity and talent in Southwark, which is why it was so great to work with UAL graduates and to put them at the heart of this project, and to see the inspiring designs they've come up with. This has been an innovative approach for us, and we hope it'll help us reach new audiences who might not engage with council consultations through more traditional ways," says Councillor Macdonald.
Aligned with UAL’s Knowledge Exchange strategy, which focuses on co-creating solutions to place-based challenges and tackling global challenges through multi-disciplinary partnerships, the project aims to have a positive impact on the lives of those who interact with the borough along with developing the social and cultural capital of the area.
"As part of our roles are designers, we should be involved with projects that can create a positive impact, and I really believe this one will," expresses Inês Segadães, MA Graphic Branding and Identity graduate from London College of Communication.
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