CQart | in leicester's cultural quarter

The realisation and quality of artwork within the Cultural Quarter is due to the collaboration between commissioner, artists, local communities, specialist agencies, design and allied professionals, and services within Leicester City Council.

The journey towards realising a body of site-specific, site responsive artworks was conceived and actioned at the time the area was identified and designated the Cultural Quarter; to ensure that art and artists work is fully considered in tandem with other developments.

The Cultural Quarter Project Vision and Aims

The overall vision of the CQ infrastructure programme is to 'make connections' (in the broadest sense).

  • By taking a holistic approach to the project - visual, physical, sensory, symbolic, emotional and cultural.
  • By enhancing the resident, visitor and user experience through the creation of a vibrant, inspiring and stimulating high quality environment.
  • By complimenting the conservation qualities and to use contemporary design and artist practice to interpret, represent and add to these.
  • Encouraging 'connections' between people, places and spaces and to establish stimulating and vibrant physical routes through the area and into other parts of the City Centre.
  • Developing a public realm that is inclusive, accessible and reflective of Leicester's diversity (cultural - faith, beliefs and values, and built heritage) using the public realm for celebratory and processional events to create a sense of pride, belonging and ownership in the area.
  • To create an environment: with a 'sense of place' in both the past and the future; that is safe, inviting, welcoming & legible; that will be used both day and night-time and takes account of the '24-hour economy'.
  • To link the Cultural Quarter as a legible part of the City Centre.

More specifically: site-specific artworks are to be interpretative, decorative, functional and celebratory and located at strategic entrances, within small open spaces, along streets, and adjacent to buildings of architectural significance around the area. The area as a whole is a strategic gateway into the City Centre from the Eastern boundary.

Opportunities where art and artists could make a contribution were identified and ranged from artists as members of Design Teams - Lulu Quinn working with Rummey Design Associates to develop concept plans for Streets and Public Spaces through to permanent & temporary works integrated within the public realm and buildings, such as the RIBA award winning LCB Depot designed by Ash Sakula Architects, with Linda Schwab, Tony Stallard, Faye Chamberlain and Metro-Boulot-Dodo; Curve designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, with interactive vestibule lighting designed by Jason Bruges, and Marsh Grochowski Architects with Michael Pinsky commissioned to develop integrated work within the Digital Media Centre.

The Commissioning Brief and Selection of Artists

The Commissioning Brief is an important document requiring detailed information about the area, potential sites, the vision and aims, the opportunities and constraints as well as an outline of the timeframe and budget. The recruitment and selection of artists or procurement of artworks is through a commissioning process. The commissioning opportunity was by Open Competition and advertised through the professional, arts, press, locally, nationally and internationally in the European Journal (OJEUC notice).

On receipt of Expressions of Interests up to five artists were shortlisted for each theme (interpretation, focal point, temporary/new media/projection, lighting, and functional) within the Cultural Quarter commissions programme, to develop proposals.

Shortlisted artists were invited to a site visit and issued a detailed Commissioning Brief and information pack. Following a period of research and development artists presented their proposals to a wider interest group of stakeholders, allied professionals, funders; followed by a more in depth interview with a smaller panel comprising representatives from the Client/Commissioner, Design Team and Arts/Commissioning Consultant.

The proposals were put up for a public exhibition and presentation to City Council elected members, local community groups, residents, businesses, and interested individuals. All comments and feedback was taken into consideration on making a final selection. Selected proposals were taken forward by Leicester City Council, the commissioners, to the next stage.

The ambition is for art and artists to contribute to the creation of a high quality environment which is inclusive, accessible, enjoyable, engaging and fun - family friendly and appeals to the child in us all; whilst drawing on, interpreting and celebrating the heritage, cultural diversity, mixed use and aspirations for the area.

Jasia McArdle

Jasia McArdle is a freelance independent artist/consultant/curator, project manager specialising in site specific art and community engagement programmes in the built and natural environments. Her contribution, to the Cultural Quarter special commissions programme, as a Leicester City Council contracted consultant, encompasses the initiation and development of the project vision through to commissioning, implementation and delivery of quality works and projects.