Public Arts Project

The journey of creating public art November 2013
Cover design (Kite boy and Girls skipping)

Poems from the children who participated in the workshops for the Helenvale public art

Children bring beauty
Children are like the roses
of the land
Like flowers that grow together
in barren fields.
We bring beauty.
Roslyn Mietsie (12)
Helenvale Primary

Ek is ‘n kind
My hartjie is sag en daar skyn lig in
My gesig is so mooi soos die blomme van die natuur
My liggaam moet ek oppas
en my naaste liefhê soos myself
Roslyn Mietsie (12)
Helenvale Primary

Introduction and Background

The Helenvale Public Art Project arose out of the construction of the Thusong Centre in Helenvale which included a component of public art. This Project was financed by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality through the Helenvale Urban Renewal Programme (HURP) and the implementation managed by the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) and the Matrix. The SADRAT Institute was the implementing organization who was responsible for the conceptualization, design, public participation and implementation of the Public art component.

This is a short summary of the project process, achievements and impact made.

The value of public art?
Helenvale and public art - What is public art?
The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.

In recent years, public art has increasingly begun to expand in scope and application  — both into other wider and challenging areas of art form, and also across a much broader range of what might be called our 'public realm'. Such cultural interventions, as noted above, have often been realised in response to creatively engaging a community's sense of 'place' or 'well-being' in society. This expanded scope of public art can embrace many diverse practices and art forms. These might be implemented as stand-alone, or as collaborative hybrids involving a multi-disciplinary approach. The range of its potential is of course endless and ever-changing.

How can public art assist?
If the problems faced by the Helenvale community are not resolved solely by more infrastructure development (or the lack of it) how then would a public art intervention is able to assist the community?

Traditionally public art challenged the elite or high art culture of the galleries by bringing art to the masses. From religious iconography, totalitarian realism to community based murals - the values of art in public spaces have shifted with economic, cultural and political motivations. Today we find public art is responding to the flexibility and cross-disciplinary nature of contemporary art practice. It is no longer primarily focused on monuments and sculptures, as artists are successfully translating their gallery practice into an array of permanent and temporary public artworks. This cross disciplinary approach is what is envisaged for the Helenvale Art project. The project will NOT focus on a monument or a traditional sculpture but rather be conceptual in nature utilising and guided by inputs based on community consultation with a target audience of young adolescents ( 10- 15years) of the so called ‘born free’ generation.

Some of the Social/Cultural benefits of public art include:

  • developing a sense of self worth
  • stimulating social interaction
  • encouraging healthier life styles
  • reducing vandalism and cost
  • nurturing grass roots cultures
  • expanding learning and awareness
  • healing the social fabric