Pride in place and the T+ Space

Pride in Place:

Luton Central Library


As part of testbeds I have been talking to local authorities and potential partners about community engagment. During this time I heard phrases such as:

‘civic pride’ and ‘community cohesion’

when referring to the importance of cultural projects, this led me to ask how does art, and the process of the art effectively build civic pride and change perceptions through outreach projects?

The Space:

Through partnership with Luton Central Library I chose to deliver a project which looked at transforming the T+ space (formerly the adolescent space) of the library, as depicted in the photographs on the right. This space was the perfect place for a project looking  to reconnect young people to a space which was itself intended for them, but which was currently being neglected by that demographic.

The Students:

The group of young people I worked with on this project were year 8 students from Stockwood Park Academy, a local secondary school. Year 8's were selected as this project could demonstrate a creative career to them before they choose GCSE options in year 9. After chatting to the group it became clear that they found the current library space "boring" – a place seen negatively from the outset and a space intended for these pupils, which a majority of them hadn’t set foot in for several years if at all.  

After the introductory sessions we moved setting and ran sessions inside the Library space itself to allow the students to access and engage with the space as part of the project. Throughout the project it also became apparent that although the students enjoyed the freedom given in art lessons, they were often disappointed with their outcomes. This led me to use abstract painting process, and the incorporation of technology within workshops to allow students to see the potential in different artistic techniques allowing them to feel a pride in their artistic outcomes, and breaking down barriers to artistic process.

The outcome

The students worked in small groups to design concepts focused on shared symbolism and themes within participants chosen literature. I worked with the Library team to deliver an unveiling event, inviting staff, students and the public to come and participate in celebration new artistic legacy within the library space, below are pictures from this event.

Artworks the students produced are now on permanent display at the T+ Library space, to provide a long lasting legacy which means Library Maker volunteers can engage with these artworks in future. To enhance this legacy I connected several of the artworks to an augmented reality app. This will mean the artworks are providing a physical legacy for the participants involved, but also work to engage young people in arts, technology and the library space through the years to come.

Civic Pride?

After the project delivery, and a follow up workshop with the young people involved I have seen evidence of the potential in a public art projects to promote pride in young people.

An example of this is the write up featured in school publication 'Park Life' (pictured on the right) by a student who participated in the project. This demonstrates the sense of pride among students, and the school, as well as this several teachers and students have visited the artwork installed permanently in a local public space. It also highlights the potential in using interdisciplinary practise to engage students in different ways, well demonstrated by this students enthusiasm for technology and the augmented reality app linked to the artwork. 

Although the students seem to have a deeper connection to the library space I will work with Luton Central Library and the University of Bedfordshire to evaluate whether this will lead to continued engagement with the Library, and an extended sense of civic pride  for the town they live in.