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Title: Is public art a waste of space? : an investigation into residents' attitudes towards public art in Harlow
Author: Healy, C.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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Public art has undergone somewhat of a renaissance over the last 20 years, with now over 70% of urban planning authorities including policies for artwork. With this renaissance, public art has moved into the realm of urban design and regeneration, with advocates claiming public art helps in developing a sense of place, identity and community. Public art is also attributed to functioning as a landmark for improving legibility and navigating. Yet popular press would have us believe that people are somewhat disgruntled with their public art. As the voices of the public are fundamentally absent from critical literature, this study seeks to address this gap through two main questions firstly, the extent to which the advocacies for public art relate to the attitudes held by the public and, secondly, the degree to which public art functions as a landmark by residents. In addressing these questions, research was undertaken in Harlow, a new town that has integrated public art in its planning. Resident attitudes were collected through questionnaires followed by two focus groups. This study shows a clear appreciation of local artist Henry Moore, whose sculptures were felt to give something unique to Harlow. Yet the proliferation of 'parachute' art was believed to limit public art's ability to create a sense of place. Residents found it hard to relate to more abstract public artwork, placing value in sculptures that reflected the town's history in order to develop a sense of identity. The study also shows the value placed by residents in participation in the creative process of their public artwork in developing a sense of community. Finally, the study reveals that public art in general is poorly used as a landmark in navigating. Yet certain sculptures did contribute to Harlow's legibility, mainly those with strong associations, form and a contrasting, prominent spatial location.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available