What  is The Birmingham Big Art Project?

It’s a partnership between the public and private sectors to commission a £2m permanent work of art to be located in a public place in the city centre.

The selected site is high-profile, located inside the entrance to Eastside City Park alongside the proposed HS2 terminal, next to Millenium Point.  It must have a WOW! factor, be extremely photogenic, and become, in time, iconic, easily recognisable around the world. Behind this 5yr plan, there’s a strong Steering Group and 7 Trustees as we’re a registered charity. Money has been raised to invite 10 artists, selected from a long list, to submit their ideas by the end of this year. And we’re inviting schoolchildren in a parallel competition alongside these professional artists.

Here’s why it’s important to business:

Vibrant cities breed economic success. A truly great city will be open for business; capable of attracting inward investment; it will invest in roads, transport, schools and universities, offering a workforce the skills needed by employers, but essentially to keep those skills in the region, not export them; a conference centre, good housing, internationally known sports stadia, leisure and health facilities and will have attractive open spaces. It will certainly have a vibrant cultural life.

Birmingham already has a global reputation in terms of performing arts, ( eg. Symphony Hall, the CBSO and Birmingham Royal Ballet). But it should be widened. Public art, if good enough, will play an important role in business.

Think of it as a branding exercise.

Images of the winning artwork could be reproduced for example on picture postcards of Birmingham and in TV productions; small-scale models could be reproduced for sale as souvenirs. There are contracts to be won here.

It would build on a city’s reputation, allowing that city to become more easily recognisable, both nationally and internationally

Most of you will recognise “The Little Mermaid”, and think of Copenhagen.  It becomes a reason to visit the Danish capital or, at the very least, to go and see it when you find yourself visiting that city on business or pleasure. Equally, the “Statue of Liberty” is a must-see work of public art when in New York.

Birmingham has no such attraction. We have no equivalent “Angel of the North”. Our existing public art is pretty lamentable –  and neglected, sadly. If we had a truly iconic public artwork and keep it maintained, we’d attract more tourism. That would directly impact on business by bringing obvious economic benefit to our shops, hotels, restaurants and cafes. But also we could expect spin-off patronage to our theatres and concert halls from these tourists and also from our citizens.

New public art, providing it is of high-enough quality, and photogenic, will therefore, contribute to the economy and become another plus-factor when considering locating a business into the region. This opens up employment opportunities and will create reciprocatory business for everyone.

Uniquely, we are to be partnered by a Birmingham-based charity, CureLeukaemia, which has a national and international reach. They see close synergy working alongside a worthwhile cultural project, positioning Birmingham on the world stage, especially as it’s appreciated by many that we could deliver a major addition to the city’s cultural offer.

For these reasons your business and your staff may like to support The Birmingham Big Art Project.  It is backed by the city fathers. Why? Because the economic benefits are obvious, and the city gains a permanent cultural attraction, a necessary ingredient for a forward-thinking city. CSR is a good starting point for such support. We have also identified some fascinating sponsorship opportunities for business.

In my view, this is a win-win project for everyone, including schoolchildren and parents alike.  I hope you agree.

GLYN PITCHFORD CSR Annual Conference, 26th June 2015.

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