Public Art, Culture and the Regeneration of Place

Submitting Institution

Leeds Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Visual Arts and Crafts

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Summary of the impact

The research and evaluation work carried out on public art and cultural regeneration that took place in the School of Built Environment and Engineering at Leeds Metropolitan University (2003-2013) has resulted in the production of a range of public art strategies and plans for local authorities and government agencies and organisations. The work has involved extensive research and evaluation of a range of cultural and public art strategies at local, regional and national level in the UK. This research work has contributed to better informed public policy debate around the role of art and culture in the process of regeneration and the analysis of the extent to which public art can contribute to creating places that have strong social, cultural and visual vitality and sustainability.

Underpinning research

Since 2003 the public art and cultural policy analysis, evaluation and research carried out at Leeds Metropolitan University work has engaged with the debate about the contribution of culture to regeneration, seeking to improve the knowledge and evidence-base upon which public sector agencies and local authorities develop cultural and public art strategies and policies. Policy for the renewal of places through culture (including public art) is now a feature of many cities as they aim to transform their economies and establish their cultural competitive advantage on a global stage. At the same time, the extent to which culture positively contributes to the regeneration of areas and neighbourhoods that have been subject to economic, social and physical decline has become a central concern of government and regeneration agencies. In an evidence-based policy environment research and evaluation has a key role to play in assessing the impacts and benefits of cultural activity and this is where activity has been placed with staff (Strange, Wishardt) providing policy analysis and evaluation research.

Research has been commissioned and carried out across the UK for a range of local and national organisations. In particular, research activity has centred on 3 national (Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England, Scottish Arts Council), 1 regional (Yorkshire Forward) and 6 local authority projects (Kent County Council, Durham County Council, Wigan Metropolitan District Council, Hull City Council, Leeds City Council). Each of these has provided a detailed interrogation and assessment of existing policy provision while carrying out evaluation work that has informed future strategy and policy development. This work demonstrates a sustained commitment to improving policy development and policy options that have potential to impact on the aesthetic and cultural renewal of places and the people that live and work there. While the results of this work have been used by clients to develop better policy options for public art, the work has also been disseminated widely within professional and academic communities, with the outcomes of research being presented and published to national and international audiences.

The research work is carried out in collaboration with colleagues both within the University and external to it. In particular, CUDEM staff (Strange, Wishardt) work closely with David Devins, Doug Sandle and Jonathan Long (Leeds Metropolitan University) and Graham Roberts (RKL — Roberts, Knight, Leeds Metropolitan consultancy), established in 2003 specifically to undertake public art evaluation work. The range of projects this research partnership has carried out is extensive with 10 projects undertaken since 2003. The number of past (and continuing) commissions is illustrative of an established research expertise and network that is well-placed to secure future work and retain research impact.

References to the research

1. Strange, I. and Usher, D. (2011) 'Evaluating Public Art in the North of England: Logical Models, Frameworks and Emerging Impact,' Local Economy, 26 (3), 203-213.


2. Sandle, D., and Strange, I. (2007) `Situating Situation Leeds: An Impact Analysis of a Festival of Contemporary Artists in the Public Realm', in Aitchison, C., & Pritchard, A. eds , Festivals and Events: Culture and Identity in Leisure, Sport and Tourism, Brighton, Leisure Studies Association, pp.95-134.

3. Long, J., and Strange, I. (2009) 'Mission or Pragmatism: Cultural Policy in Leeds Since 2000', in Bramham, P. and Wagg, S. (eds) Sport Leisure and Culture in a Postmodern Northern City, pp.63-82, Ashgate.

4. Devins, D., Sandle, D., Strange, I., and Usher, D. (2009) Welcome to the North Public Art Programme Evaluation — Final Report, Yorkshire Forward.

5. Sandle, D., and Strange, I. (2006) `The cultural and political impact of Situation Leeds — contemporary artists and the public realm', LSA Newsletter, pp.40-57.

Details of the impact

Over the last decade public art has increasingly become associated with the wider processes of regeneration and place shaping. However, the assessment of the impact of public art in relation to wider regeneration benefits is complex and difficult to identify. This is reflective of a number of factors, including: the uncontained nature of the audience that views public art; the fact that the target population for anticipated impacts of the art is very broad; that audience contact can be intentional or accidental, conscious or subconscious, direct or indirect; and that outcomes are often time-lagged, evolving over a number of years. Since 2003 the cultural policy and public art policy analysis and evaluation work undertaken through the underpinning research outlined in section 3 has directly addressed these issues, providing policy makers with information and evidence with which to assess the impact of their investments in public art works and public art strategies.

The policy impact of this research activity has been spread throughout the UK across a range of local authorities and public sector agencies. This work has involved extensive interaction with the policy-making community through numerous strategy and policy evaluations for local authorities, as well as assessments of national cultural and public art programmes relating to the built environment (projects for Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England, Scottish Arts Council). At a national level our research has informed both organisational change and spending priorities of key cultural institutions. For example, the research undertaken for Public Art Wales (2003) and the Scottish Arts Council (2004), was used to determine the structure for public art provision in these organisations, as well as their delivery and commissioning strategies. Equally, our research for the Arts Council, England in 2007/8 contributed to the development of a rationalised approach to a national cultural programme (Architecture Week) designed to promote and improve public awareness of the significance of art, design and architecture in the built environment.

Our contribution to the cultural regeneration of place has also been made at the regional level. Between 2007 and 2008, working with colleagues in the University's Policy Research Institute, we contributed to an extensive piece of research on the `Welcome to the North' Public Art Programme' (part of a wider `Welcome to the North' initiative funded under the management of `The Northern Way' programme of regional development activity in the mid-200s). Our research both reviewed and evaluated the success of the `Welcome to the North Public Art Programme' as well as assessing its broader aim of establishing a public art programme designed to enhance the profile, perception and overall quality of place of the Northern Way area (the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East). (see:

One of the key recommendations from the research was the need to maximize publicity and promotional messages during the post-delivery stage of the programme in order to ensure that its impacts continue to accrue. Indeed, our work demonstrated that the presence of the art works and their impact upon the wider public would continue to emerge beyond the life-time of the overall programme. The key recommendation here (and impact on the programme) was that there was a need to identify ways in which the art works could be mobilized to promote quality of place and improve the perception of the North of England in the long term. In practical terms this required the commissioning organisation to develop approaches to post-programme management that linked the imagery and presence of the art work to major event promotion within specific localised contexts.

Our work at the local level has been influential in developing local public art strategies. For example, as the Wigan Pier Quarter Strategy document suggests, "Consultants RKL have prepared a Public Art Strategy for the Pier Quarter. The strategy shows how an integrated public art strategy could help to create a new image for the area and help to enhance the distinctive qualities of the site."
( (p.9). While our work for Durham County Council was recognised as providing the authority with "the structural capacity to act as a focus for public art work in County Durham generally and not just initiatives involving the County Council".
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In sum, our work has provided information and evidence designed to allow each client to assess current policy and provision as well develop and improve future policy formation and delivery. This evaluation work has made specific contribution to the development of more evidenced-based policy formulation, particularly in the articulation of new and/or reworked public art strategies produced by these organisations. The beneficiaries of this evaluation work are both the public sector agencies and local authorities themselves (better informed policy-making and improved understanding of the role and impacts of public art in the regeneration process) and their local communities and populations (improvements in public service provision and enrichment of the cultural offer of places). Our involvement in the continuing commissioning of such evaluation and policy analysis work is indicative of the value and relevance of our past research and the potential for its future maintenance and continued development.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. Imagine Porty Prom — A Public Art Strategy for Portobello Promenade (2009-10) City of Edinburgh/Scottish Arts Council (with RKL consultants).

B. Welcome to the North Public Art Programme Evaluation (2007-09) Yorkshire Forward (with the Policy Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University). ct09.pdf

C. Architecture Week: Evaluation and Options Appraisal (2007-08) Arts Council England.

D. The Ashford Ring Road Project (2009) Kent County Council (with RKL consultants).

E. A Public Art Strategy for Durham County Council (2005) Durham County Council (with RKL consultants). tegy&DF=04%2F08%2F2005&A=1&R=0 (evidence of the work undertaken)

F. Evaluation of National Lottery Artists Work in Public Places Scheme (2005) Scottish Arts Council (with RKL consultants). (evidence of the work undertaken)

G. Kingston Upon Hull Public Art Strategy (2004) Hull City Council (with RKL consultants). A&usg=AFQjCNF4DaRnqqhafcaJrKq2uHTM1K6yw&sig2=Q2fdxm29WRgoYrhPh6W6fQ&bvm=bv.561 46854,d.d2k

H. A Public Art Strategy for Wigan Pier Quarter, (2004) Wigan Borough Council (with RKL consultants) (This document is the 2006 Wigan Pier Quarter Planning and Regeneration Strategy which was informed by the RKL 2004 strategy — see page 9).

I. A Review of Public Art in Wales, 1998-2003 (2003) funded by the Arts Council of Wales (with RKL consultants). (evidence of the work undertaken)