Creating a sense of place

Alastair Upton, Issue 118/05, p15, 01.05.2018
Alastair Upton is the chief executive of the Creative Foundation
How can a collection of contemporary art displayed in public spaces contribute to a town’s sense of place, identity and wellbeing? This is a question that we have been asking at the Creative Foundation, the independent arts charity that is behind the Folkestone Triennial.
Folkestone Artworks is the collection of works originally commissioned by the foundation for the triennial. It is now on permanent display in public spaces around the town all year round. The initiative recently featured as a case study in an Art Fund-commissioned report by historian David Cannadine, Why Collect?, which looks at the different ways in which museums are collecting today in response to social and cultural shifts. Our collection boasts 40 artworks by an impressive array of emerging young talent, as well as more established artists.

It is envisaged that Folkestone Artworks will continue to grow after each triennial, helping to develop Folkestone’s reputation as a unique destination in the UK for those who enjoy contemporary art. The aim is that when people think about Folkestone, they think about the collection, which includes works by Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Yoko Ono, Richard Wilson, Pablo Bronstein, Cornelia Parker, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Lubaina Himid, Antony Gormley and Nathan Coley. Banksy’s Art Buff will also become part of the collection next year.
The scale of the collection means that the impact of Folkestone Artworks can reach across this modestly size town, and help build its reputation for creativity and to spread this internationally as an example of place-making. With the whole town being used as a gallery space, the work has enabled the community to repurpose degraded and unused sites. It has also allowed residents to see the town differently, and has enabled them to articulate and envisage the future shape of the area.

There is no data kept for the audience viewing the artworks, as it is open to the public all day, every day, unsupervised. But it is clear that some pieces from the collection, such as Cornelia Parker’s Mermaid and Patrick Tuttofuoco’s Folkestone sign at Harbour Arm, have become iconic images of the town, regularly featuring in press and social media coverage. This shows the role of the artworks in continuing to support the creative branding of Folkestone – a source of pride for the town and an attraction for visitors. The collection is slowly becoming a focal point and a catalyst for the town’s visual arts and a learning resource for schools and universities. All help cement Folkestone’s reputation as a visual arts town.

Folkestone Artworks is an ongoing conversation between artists, between artworks, between the artworks and the town, and between Folkestone and the rest of the world. This discussion is renewed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Folkestone Artworks illuminates Folkestone as a place, helping to make sense of the future as well as the past.


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Jonathan Gammond
Access , Wrexham County Borough Museum
09.05.2018, 22:19
There must have been a reason why the 1950s/60s New Towns and London Boroughs after the Second World War commissioned and purchased so much public art!

I would recommend a visit to the Desyatynna Park in Kiev, loads of public art in what was a disused and overlooked bit of hillside. I first visited in 2011 and it was just starting, four years later - what a transformation.