Further up in the air
Looking back over both projects the curators cited the significant amount of development time dedicated to develop relationships with residents as a key element to the success of the project. Another strength of both projects was that they developed in an organic way over five years during which a high level of trust was achieved.
Artists interviewed for this case study described the experience as an extremely positive one. Anna Fox described the project as well organised and generously funded, allowing artists a rare opportunity to spend a period of funded time to explore ideas without the pressure of a defined 'outcome'.
In terms of the legacy of both residency programmes, residents were pleased that people were interested in their lives and felt the project as a whole was a positive and enriching experience. The project made residents feel happier to move from the blocks which had been their homes for, in many cases, more than 30 years and to take up a new life in the new estate. The majority of residents predated the involvement of LHAT and were understandably concerned about what was going to happen.
The art projects came at what was "a traumatic time" and helped take people's minds off what was happening and 'coasted' them along by giving them external matters to think about and people to interact with. Residents' prized possessions, such as china, furniture, papers and posters, were used in the artists' work, giving a sense of inclusion and purpose.
Josie Crawford describes the time residents marched through central Liverpool displaying their own artwork in the form of big helium filled blow up dogs which were printed with residents' designs. This was the first time many of the residents had been into central Liverpool for some years.
Liverpool Housing Action Trust
While recognising the success of the project, in terms of 'lessons learnt' LHAT on reflection acknowledge that more dialogue between LHAT staff would have been beneficial and would have encouraged greater involvement and understanding of contemporary art from within the LHAT team. Paul Kelly commented that in future with new arts programmes LHAT would put in place a profile raising and staff awareness training programme prior to inception to encourage staff understanding of arts issues.
In terms of legacy for LHAT, their Arts Policy which was written in the form of a paper presented to the Executive in 2000 by Paul Kelly was formally adopted as a percent for art policy in 2003 and LHAT are actively commissioning artists in their new developments.
Neither project was formally evaluated. Rather, the curators and LHAT felt that evaluation was built in during the life of both projects. For instance publications for both projects and a website were planned and budgeted for right from the beginning, partly as a way of recording permanently the outcome of a series of temporary residencies and ensuring a real legacy for all involved, especially the residents. Paul Kelly, Community Development Manager, felt the project created its own dynamic with good press nationally and internationally. A project catalogue was produced for Up in the Air with a small budget containing an introduction by Neville Gabie, two commissioned essays and artists' profiles and images. For Further up in the Air, a larger catalogue was produced with a bigger budget of £16,000.
© Frances Lord, July 2005