Public art has so much to offer

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday

The sight of Captain Tim Peake’s Space Module in Peterborough Cathedral has caught the imagination of the public, and has seen visitors flocking in since it touched down in August, writes Barry Warne, Peterborough Green Party.

With the Museum of The Moon on display at the same venue the flow of visitors is likely to increase even further. The space capsule along with the accompanying display is just one example of public art in Peterborough, that is, art or media that can be viewed for free and is accessible to all in an informal setting.

Peterborough is well served by public art both in the city centre and further afield. Anthony Gormley’s ‘places to be’ sculptures caused a stir when they were moved to city centre rooftops in May. They continue to attract the eye of visitors and locals alike. Many of us spend too much time looking down at screens, and however we interpret this display it certainly reminds us how much we may miss by failing to look up. The three sculptures were purchased by Peterborough Development Corporation in 1984 and have previously been sited outside Monkstone House and on Thorpe Meadows. Years on, they may now have found their natural home.

Gormley’s best known work, The Angel of The North in Gateshead received a lukewarm welcome when it was erected in 1998, but has since become as big a Geordie Icon as Paul Gascoigne.

Perhaps the most striking piece of art in the city is the Peterborough Arch by Lee Grandjean which is situated beside Longthorpe Parkway. It’s Peterborough’s own version of the Angel of The North.

The sculpture park across the rowing lake has caused much discussion, and at times head scratching amongst walkers. The sculptures may not all be universally liked, but they are rarely ignored. Nene Park plays a major role in the Peterborough Public Art scene with their tree carvings, themed signs and even the memorial benches recording local residents’ feelings about the park and what it meant to them.

No piece of art can be loved by everyone and there can’t be many in Peterborough that haven’t had scorn poured upon them. That is not the point, however. If a mural, a carving, or a sculpture is talked about then it has done its job. The re-instatement of the Town Bridge mural to Fletton Quays is a good case in point.

Engaging local artists can be key to a successful strategy and the murals painted on the Queensgate Subway walls have not only brightened up the area but have kept it relatively unspoilt by grafittists, who have a tendency to respect other artists’ work.

The fourth plinth project in Trafalgar Square has been a rip roaring success with revolving temporary displays of art.

Perhaps we could take something from this and have a venue here in Peterborough where local artists can display their works.

There is so much in our city centre and beyond to observe, and such an instillation could be a big filip to local artists.