Public space is not our forte. Our fountains don’t work. When major events aren’t happening our spaces can seem cold and empty. Our culture has to fit in the spaces that are left once the bus lanes are fixed, in a city dominated by its transport infrastructure and suffering from its somewhat dubious reputation as Motorway City of the North.
Yet our artists know how to breathe life and colour into our streets. Our architects understand how people move around a space and the health and wellbeing benefits of open, green and generous spaces. Our planners have created an urban oasis with the new Pocket Park at Sovereign Square, the first park in the city centre for more than a century, paving the way for an ambitious new city park in the South Bank, providing a green lung and much needed respite from the grind of city life.
Park Here and Play is a collaboration between Leeds City Council, Leeds Art Gallery and DLA Architects which will transform Victoria Gardens throughout August, bringing life, creativity and a serious provocation asking how different our public spaces could be with a little imagination.
Sarah Brown, Principal Keeper at Leeds Art Gallery, said: “In the lead up to Leeds Art Gallery re-opening we’re delighted to be working with key partners in the city to connect the art gallery with Victoria Gardens this summer. This ambitious project welcomes cultural partners across the city to engage visitors with an extraordinary commission that champions art, architecture and the public realm which are all vital elements to a successful European Capital of Culture.”
A new commission will recreate the public space that stretches from Leeds Town Hall, taking in the City Library, Art Gallery and Henry Moore Institute and ending in a temporary closure of Cookridge Space. The space will include small interventions such as temporary picnic areas alongside an ambitious new sculptural pavilion by Leeds Beckett School of Art, Architecture & Design Students, Steve McCloy & Bo Muchemwa, using road barriers to create a new event space and seating areas whilst posing questions about the barriers people face in enjoying both our public spaces and the cultural life of the city. The physical installations will be supported by a programme of talks, workshops, play dates and performances which will be included in an evaluation sparking a further conversation about the city’s public spaces, who they belong to and how they are used.
It is hoped that this project will pave the way for an annual public space commission at Victoria Gardens bringing the Art Gallery and its National and International collections onto the streets of Leeds, and breaking barriers for those less likely to visit and benefit from our fantastic art galleries.