At a Weston Wonderers’ meeting last week, where interested members of the public join forces to discuss and evaluate the art project that is soon to hit Central Weston-super-Mare, we were fortunate enough to meet the two curators of the project; Claire Doherty from Situations and Theresa Bergne from Field Art Projects. It was an opportunity to find out more about the whys and wherefores of the Public Art that is about to be unleashed upon our seaside town.
I’ve already raised my concerns over the lack of publicity for this project and I wanted to find out whether this was part of a mysterious Masterplan or simply down to short-sighted planning.
It turns out that it was mostly due to a squeeze on time – CABE had only given North Somerset Council 12 months in which to spend the grant that it had awarded them as part of its national Sea Change initiative: a grant of £756, 447 over 2 years. It appears that this sum would have been £100, 000 more if a proposal to renovate the seafront Tourist Information Centre had gone ahead. But it didn’t.
CABE’s Sea Change Capital Grant payment has not only covered the cost of the entire Wonders of Weston (WoW) project but, according to a
North Somerset Council memo that includes a breakdown of monies, it has also been allocated to the seafront arch, the children’s water park and the landscaping of Madeira Cove.
The grant, which is meant “to develop cultural and artistic interventions linking the seafront and cultural assets of Weston-super-Mare” in the aftermath of the fire at the Grand Pier, had a very short lifespan and had to be spent by 30th October 2010, one day before WoW launches.
For this reason, we were told, it had been necessary to research, liaise, build and install the six works of art in a relatively short time-frame and so the participatory element (the bit where the artistic team involves the general public) was cut short and has now been achieved almost exclusively through the WoW website and the nominating of Weston's Seventh Wonder by members of the public. This, however, doesn’t explain why the WoW Facebook page or website were slow to update readers on the launch date and details. Or why people aren't nominating.
Releasing too much information about of works of art, the explanation goes, hinders organic changes in artistry. Sometimes unseen factors come into play and, if everyone was expecting one thing, it would be near impossible to morph it into another without a collective eyebrow raising. It is better not to lift expectations when funding and councils, among other factors, such as misleading media reports, can throw plans off kilter.
Wonders of Weston is going ahead, however, and the launch date is Friday 29th October, just in case you hadn’t heard …