Opportunity: Call out for socially engaged artists and arts organisations interested in the development of a heritage project

Arts organisations and artists with experience in the conception and delivery of socially engaged arts are now invited to attend a meeting nominally scheduled for early 2017 to engage in the proposed Heritage Landscape Partnership: Wiltshire’s Equine Chalk Hill-figures Project.

Wiltshire’s white horse hill-figures are potent social and cultural landmarks on the downland landscape, provoking a strong sense of ownership and local identity to the communities linked with them. There are currently eight equine chalk hill-figures of various ages scattered across the county – each are complex signifiers of: local and regional heritage; individual and community identity; social and cultural continuity. Over the past two centuries other horse hill-figures were constructed but which have now been lost to us — their once bright white silhouettes gradually subjected to turf invasion following long periods of neglect, their locations now all but having faded from memory.

The proposed three year Heritage Landscape Partnership: Wiltshire’s Equine Chalk Hill-figures Project is designed to fundamentally reconfigure our knowledge of Wiltshire’s vulnerable, enigmatic, yet socially relevant collection of white horse hill-figures through a broad range of integrated activities aimed at promoting and enabling wider community engagement, knowledge creation, and deepening respect for these poorly understood monuments embedded in Wiltshire’s historic landscape.

A core aim of the project’s arts activities is to make material and tangible Wiltshire’s lost white horse hill-figures and, as a consequent, reignite their now diminished force as markers of social memory and identity. The proposed range of participatory arts activities represent a key element in delivering the project’s overall aim of facilitating cross-generational journeys of collective discovery, the impact of which will aggregate across one or more of each participating community.

Here, then, we invite an exploration of the properties of absence and loss through a series of arts-based activities to reconnect individuals and communities with Wiltshire’s lost hill-figures. It is anticipated the project will provide the ideal conceptual ‘space’ in which a dynamic relationship will flourish between individuals, communities and artists to creatively explore wider issues surrounding themes of recalling, re-imaging and re-presenting. By engaging with these core themes, it is intended participants will reflect on the central role heritage can play in the construction of an individual’s identity and how the arts enacted as process can foster greater community cohesion; simply put, participatory arts activities are here designed to provide a forum for communities to develop their own stories and to find their own voices through their own cultural heritage.

Next steps: Arts organisations and artists with experience in the conception and delivery of socially engaged arts are now invited to attend a meeting nominally scheduled for early 2017 to: respond to the draft project outline (available on request); register expressions of interest in one or more of the project’s activities; register potential interest as a project partner; identify possible funding streams.

Contact: Garry Gibbons at garry.gibbons@btinternet.com if you are interested in finding out more.

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