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InSite

14/08/2009

A Public Art Programme

As the first participatory public arts programme in Oxford within the national Regeneration Initiative managed locally by East Oxford Action, InSite was about new public art, inspired by community work which aimed to contribute towards long term environmental improvement and regeneration of the area.

The project involved five public art commissions which were specifically aimed at bringing marginalised groups and professional artists together. In so doing, the project contributed positively to East Oxford community's identity - through public art in the city, attention was called to the impact that local artists can have on the community if they reciprocally engage with one another.

Three follow on projects: The Outside Space, Pavement Jewellery, and The Rest Space

As part of inSite, The Outside Space (2002) was a participatory arts project that aimed to connect refugees and asylum seekers with the local community through the creative arts.

Professional artist Ann Rapstoff led a series of activities to bring groups together, including a video with the English Community School (ESOL) which celebrated their personal journeys and experiences of being in Oxford.

A welcoming courtyard sanctuary was created at the Asylum Welcome Building, including a herb garden and large mural. The project culminated with a temporary work, WISH, which took place at the Cowley Road Carnival in 2002. Two hundred colourful balloons were launched, bearing the hopes and wishes of carnival goers. One balloon made it all the way to the island of Terschilling, (off the Netherlands) which carried one young girl’s wish for world peace.

From 2001-2005, Fusion Arts worked with local artists to develop a series of unique public artworks for the Cowley Road. Commissioned as part of the InSite project, Pavement Jewellery consisted of a series of fifty-eight bronze ingots that were designed and laid into the pavement in front of individual shops and landmarks on Cowley Road. The series was launched on 18th November 2005 by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Robert Price.

Still visible on the Cowley Road today, Pavement Jewellery was originally created as a type of permanent puzzle, intended to encourage dialogue between members of the local community. Each ingot was created in a pair and people within the local community and across Oxford were invited to participate in uncovering the hidden quotes that were connected to each individual piece. Local artist Liam Curtin worked with Katy Beinart, Emily Fuller, Helen McKeith, Gerard Hanson, Emma Reynard, and Jane Walton to produce the impressive series.

We were pleased to award Ian Balmer of Oxford the prize-winning Bronze Ingot for being the first to solve the Pavement Jewellery puzzle.

"I will give the ingot to my daughter, it’s part of our history." - Mr. Balmer

The work involved a range of imaginative approaches to find unique titbits of knowledge, diverse personal and social histories, odd facts, and evolutions that were creatively rendered into iconic images about the road’s history and character.

The ingots themselves reflect the unique history and evolution of the road: a time capsule for the collective knowledge of the local community for future generations.

Watch the Bronze Eyes Film made students of OVFM!

In 2003, artists Emily Fuller and Helen MacKeith worked with Mental Health Service users and other members of the community to create the Trinity Labyrinth, a public artwork as part of the inSite Commissions.

The site for this project was the historic churchyard of St Mary and St John Church on the Cowley Road, which underwent a regeneration process after a long period of neglect and misuse. It is known as the ‘Green Lung’ of East Oxford, and people are being encouraged to use the grounds as a quiet space for rest and reflection. The labyrinth symbolises unity and eternity and each tile contains historical and personal references made by the many participants who took part in the project.

Groups who took part in its creation include The Learning Centre, Oxford Survivors, Gemini, Acorn, the Third Monday Group, Oasis and the Warneford Hospital, as well as members of the parish congregation.

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Supporters of Fusion Arts

Oxford City Council Arts Council England National Lottery Funded Project Grant National Lottery Community Fund Oxfordshire Community Foundation Here for Culture Doris Field Charitable Trust BBC Children in Need