CONSULTATION

There's a phrase we learned early on that has stayed with us 'The only thing people dislike more than change is being changed'.

Public art is a very emotive topic and therefore it was very important for us that our next stage is shaped directly by local people.

So, how do you ask a whole town for their ideas and then, critically, how do you process this harvest of imagination?

Well, we had a little help!

The team appointed to assist us with this were Bryan Beattie, Kay Smith, Colin Gordon, John McGeoch and all the gang at Arts in Motion.

The first thing done to raise awareness and interest in the project was to distribute postcards to every household to complete and return with ideas. These gave some information on the project on one side and asked for ideas and drawings on the other. We arranged drop off points around the town to enable their return.

Arts in Motion focussed their involvement on a two week period, straddling the last week of the school summer holidays and the first week back at school. This allowed us to undertake 'street consultation' for the first week and focussed in-school sessions the following week.

We wanted to be visible to people in the town and to indicate the practical nature of the project (bearing in mind some attitudes towards 'the arts') so we converted the old Keith & Patience shop on the High Street into an Evolution Shop for the duration . To invite interest and add street theatre there was a beach scene outside (parasols, deckchairs, etc) and those who were enticed inside found a range of interpretive material on display and a constantly rolling projector giving examples of public art styles and media possibilites.

The Arts in Motion team used their days in a combination of performance 'on-street' conversations with people, encouraging them to submit ideas, and also arranged arts sessions with groups and venues in the town, i.e. in the Isobel Rhind Centre, four care homes and the leisure centre. They also targeted one of the busiest events of the year in the town, the Highland Games, where they set up a marquee and undertook a mixture of performance and consultation throughout the (unusually sunny) day.

This overall approach generated 681 individual responses - many of them illustrated. While some of the responses focussed on civic issues the majority gave ideas, some quite brilliant and inspired, on what might be achieved in the town.

So how did we distil 681 ideas down to 4 achievable projects?

Well we had no shortage of advice on the criteria wew should use to make the decisions and, following discussion with Helen Ross, Ward Manager, we came up with the scoring system below.

However as we had been made aware that there was a very popular response for play equipment we had asked Geoff Robson, Highland Council to advise. Unfortunately, in line with Highland Council policy the Council are not adopting any new play equipment without a substantial (20 year) endowment towards maintenance and insurance. So guidance was given at the outset that while creative play areas could be shortlisted, actual play equipment could not. With that in mind the criteria notes were as follows.

1

Achievability

Within budget, potential location available, potential partnerships and artists available, development costs realistic

2

Viability or sustainability

Take into consideration long term maintenance costs

3

Integration with identified local priorities

Employability, usefulness, educational, functional, local acceptability. Cohesive rather than divisive (IOTW overarching Aim) Embedded in some way in existing foundations of Invergordon

4

WOW factor

This project is headed as Inspire. Requires to have an innovative approach

5

Capacity for involvement

We are trying to reach more people, beyond the usual suspects, and including all ages and capabilities in the process .

6

Legacy

The value and quality of what is left behind. Can apply to anything. Whether it be in skills, memories, solid pieces or capacity building.

We are grateful to Katherine Pearson, Hilary Nichols, Alan Potter, Sue-Jane Taylor, Steve des Landes, Robert Livingstone and the Creative Scotland website for guidance.

Process

1. All cards and children’s responses were separated intofour piles and were divided intofour groups.

2. Each group was given the criteria for judging and tasked with doingtwo sifts. The first would be a very rough sift where the unachievable were set aside. However groups were asked at this stage to note recurring themes or gems of ideas that could be added to other responses. They then undertook a second sift of their shortlisted cards where they graded the responses in marks out offive against each ofsix criteria set down. Groups were urged to take on board all the advice received so far relating to commissioning, placement, method, theme, inclusion and logistics. They were also advised to assemble the cards into groups of complementary ideas.

3. When they had fine tuned their stack down to less than ten( approximatelytwo hours) we met around the table again to go through the emerging themes and proposals. It was found that each group had some very similar emerging ideas which were then whittled down through discussion of the criteria tonine choices for prioritising.

4. The group then ran a pair ranking session in order to prioritise these results. Pair ranking is a process which uses a voting system employing wisdom of crowds to make a decision on multiple items in a relatively short time, in an amicable and democratic way. Each choice on the grid is matched against every other choice, and the number of times that each is chosen is counted. From this the choices can then be prioritised. See below.

1

x

2

1

x

3

1

2

x

4

1

2

3

x

5

5

5

5

5

x

6

1

2

6

6

5

x

7

7

7

7

7

5

7

x

8

1

2

3

8

5

6

7

x

9

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

9

x

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

These are the options related to the numbers in the grid and not the resulting order.

  1. A variety of linear park options from ground maze, family fun park to sculpture trail.

  2. A pathway trhough the linear park with traced the heritage of the area.

  3. Creative signage in the High Street and elsewhere which is a feature in its own right, performs a purpose and stamps a character on the town.

  4. A covered area in the High Street, either a new take on the bus shelter shape, perspex parasol solution orcovered walkway area to encourage continental cafe approach.

  5. Sculpture Workshops. Welding sculpture came over strongly. This could be set up as a local residency for an artist to work with local welders to create a piece/pieces relating to the area. In parallel to this the skilled welders could be working with unskilled local people on small pieces using old skills in a new way. Resulting work would be used in either area which was emerging (High Street or linear park).

  6. Totem Pole -not as daft as it sounds as totem poles tell the story of the place and this type of theme was coming forward strongly. This could be a workshop type experience which gave us the opportunity for some transnational creativity with Chemainus.

  7. Mirror mosaic or reflective piece with the additional twist of a light installation element. Many young people spoke of wanting rainbows in the town. Northern lights were also mentioned. This could be an opportunity to illustrate one of the rising themes in a new and interesting way.

  8. Bus, converted to be a travelling workshop space which could double as a gallery and take the experience out to the sticks ......Invergordon off the wall and on the road.

  9. Clocks and other Animatronics.

Just to put you in the picture, you can see that the first box at the axis of the grid is a 1. In this case the vote was between ideas 1 and 9 i.e. linear park options versus the clocks and animatronics. While the clock or animatronic rated highly in the Wow factor (criteria 4) it lost out in criteria 2, 3 and 5.

The process went through all the pairs on the grid. The totals were then added up and the resulting priorities were ordered as below.

1 The sculpture workshops, residency, potentially welding

2 Reflective art form with light installation and local theme

3 Linear park options

4 Pathway feature at Linear park

5 Totem pole

6 High Street signage

The consultation period has allowed us to evolve this vision in a way we believe enhances the original intention both in the quality and scale of the project and, importantly for us, will establish a solid platform for its continuing legacy. In that sense ‘Evolution’ remains an apt title for our project and our aspiration for Invergordon.

Initially we envisaged 3-5 large scale public art projects. We have chosen to focus on 3 projects based around an artist’s residency and all will involve participation from local people. This approach will

a) Continue our participatory working practice from our previous mural projects, a key element in engaging local interest and ownership of the public art.

b) Result in more works of public art than initially envisaged

One advisor reminded us of the approach by Deveron Arts in Huntly where they view ‘the town is the venue’ – that phrase inspired us and has helped shape how we see the physical outcomes of this project.

We said we wanted 'local people to become artists themselves for a moment, an hour.....taking public art ideas through to fruitiion'.

This remains the case and we wil do so by using the artist residencies as ‘apprenticeship’ opportunities for local people to acquire new skills that will serve them and the community well in the future.

An Initial stated aim was ‘to inspire everyone to talk about art’ – and this also remains a key objective. We have used the consultation process to trial how this might work in practice and we have been rewarded with a huge level of interest in Evolution with almost 700 ideas submitted to us from local people (see below).

Our original stated intention was to establish ‘new cross-sectoral people partnerships’ to assist with the artist selection process. A core part of our project will now include evolving a new body (Connections: Invergordon Cultural Partnership) to help realise the long-term arts aspiration for the town and ensure the legacy of the Evolution project.

Our consultation process was designed to maximise awareness in the town of the intention and opportunity that Evolution provides for Invergordon. We wanted to stimulate an interest in the concept and encourage contributions as to how it might develop.

The scale and nature of the response was extraordinary with 17% of the local population submitting a written idea or opinion on how or what might be developed.

This response has provided us not only with considerable evidence of the interest, need and support for the Evolution project, but also with a significant bank of artistic ideas that will be available to the commissioned artists and local apprentices to inspire them when they are working on site.

Statistics aren’t everything, but even we were impressed with the level of response and interest we received - in hard figures we categorised the number of ideas as:

Performance

20

Architecture

58

Public Art – Sculptured

64

Public Art – Water and Lighting

24

Public Art – Murals

15

Public Art – Naval

15

Civic – Roads and Transport

42

Civic – Pier and Harbour – Parks, Gardens, Flowers

50

Civic – Shopping

36

Civic – Public Toilets

14

Civic - Heritage

19

Civic – Groups and Activities

79

Schools – Bright Ideas

215

Totals

681


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