Joanna Mountain-Lawrence and Jack Raisey are the assistant artists & mentees of Ron Thompson & Julie Edwards (Planet Art) who are the commissioned artists running the George Ward Gardens public art project for the Persimmon Homes site in Melksham.
They assisted with the very many public engagements that Planet Art held over the summer and autumn period in 2019, consulted the general public at many local events, engaged on the site with the residents and children as well as working with local school pupils aged 4 -15 in craft sessions which the children universally loved.
Who are we?
Jack: I am an artist based in the south-west and a former pupil from the George Ward School. Having completed my BA in Fine Art at Bath Spa University, I work on my own arts driven projects, theatre set and prop design and worked on my own public commission last summer for Litter Free Coast and Sea in Dorset. I am thrilled to be working with Planet Art, and with Joanna as co-assistants on this exciting project.
Joanna: I live in Lacock with my husband and our two children having moved to Wiltshire from London in late 2018 and am an artist and freelance creative director in the festival industry. My day job involves designing and making various types of sculpture for festivals and events. My first public art commission outside of festivals was a temporary installation and performance art piece in the grounds of Orleans House Gallery in Richmond last Summer. My aim is to start creating work with more longevity for public spaces.
What are we doing?
Jack: We assisted in setting up and running consultation sessions and craft exercises and have chatted to countless residents and youths from the new site and town. The local residents have really helped shape the format and purpose of the installations. Now the final designs have been set, there is now the exciting process of building the pieces and their installation. The unveiling will be a wonderful conclusion to this journey, then the pieces will come to life and create interest to the site. It is so important that the community see their input does matter and see their ideas put into the finished outcome.
Joanna: The sculpture is going to be made from stainless steel which is a material I have never worked with. It will be great to see the fabrication first hand and learn about this material as it really lends itself to use in permanent outdoor sculpture. Julie started off working with fabric, which is a medium I feel very comfortable with. It’s been interesting to hear from Julie how she sees working in sheet metal as akin to working in fabric in some ways. That’s given me confidence to try designing with sheet metal myself.
What have we learned?
Jack: How to expertly involve and inspire the community to get involved in a project they maybe wouldn’t ordinarily get involved in. Being creative takes many forms and has many different outlets. How important it is to factor in the practical aspects of pieces at the early stages and how to ensure they are fully suited to their environment and how to achieve concepts in physical reality. The team behind this project are a wealth of knowledge and expertise, its been so great to see how everything has been tied together with real care and attention.
Joanna: So much! It’s such a fantastic chance to learn from established artists and gain insight into how the commissioning process works. Ron and Julie (Planet Art) and Diana Hatton (the project manager) have been so generous with their time, knowledge and advice. They really are the perfect mentors and I feel so lucky to have met them all. We will definitely remain friends after the project and hopefully work together again . It’s also been great getting to know the local town councillors and council officers in Melksham who are all so welcoming and dedicated to serving their community. It’s very inspiring.
Jack: I continually love working on this project, everyone works so hard. It has been inspiring to work with Ron and Julie, Joanna, Dianna and Melksham council and Meril at Wiltshire Arts and when we have finished I am really excited about working again with these brilliant people in the future. Art is important and art must be shared.
Joanna: Working on the project has given me more confidence and ideas for public art commissions so (after festival season is over!) I’m planning on applying for more commissions. Hopefully some of those applications will be made in partnership with Jack. Our skills really compliment each other.
The public art programme results from the S106 public art contribution from the old George Ward School site in Melksham. The work has been commissioned by Persimmon Homes and being developed in partnership with the community.
These links to previous blogs tell the story so far:
- Consultation begins for a public art project at George Ward Gardens, Melksham
- Guest blog: Planet Art talk about the George Ward Gardens Public Art project for this Persimmon Homes site
- George Ward Gardens public art project update
Final artworks are expected to be installed in September 2020