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A large painting of a blue tot on the side of a building.

Public art is a brilliant way to create interest and experience in any place. But what is a seemingly short-cut to place activation and local culture is harder than it looks. How do you commission and create authentic art that will stand the test of time and create meaning and connections when it's placed in situ?

Join the IPM and a range of guest speakers to look at an approach for public art, and the good, bad and ugly found out in the wilds of UK high streets and beyond.


  • Ross Grant – Aberdeen Inspired BID and project lead, Nuart Aberdeen
  • Matt Sims – Chief Executive, Croydon BID and lead for Croydon Stands Tall sculpture project
  • Helen Mole – Head of Place Marketing and Inward Investment, Cheltenham Borough Council
  • Belinda Dillon – Programme Manager, Creative Arc


Thursday 12 October 2023, 2.00–3.30pm

Public Art: How to do it well

An online event for IPM members only. Attendance is accredited for IPM professional development and is worth 90 CPD points.

Not an IPM member?

About this topic

The term ‘Public Art’ covers a wide scope, such as the visual arts, sound, performance, and architecture. These installations can be permanent or temporary, be a full-scale festival or a small, local affair – they are all defined by creative work, freely accessible by the public.

These artful spaces can allow for ‘self-expression; community dialogue; education and enjoyment; inspiring participation in appreciation and creation of art; community problem solving; enhancement of the physical infrastructure and environment…celebration and transformation of place’ (Elizabeth Umbanhowar, 2015) Yet, these sites can also be contentious; these can be places of debate and disagreement as often the spaces and content of the art will align with specific political, social, and moral values.

However, it is evident that places across the world, such as New York, Paris, and London have begun to understand and integrate public artworks initiatives; but it’s not just world cities. Public Art can boost local pride and the perceptions the places and communities. IPM’s recent visit to New Brighton revealed this kind of transformative and uplifting work in a smaller centre on the Wirral. Indeed, many places have begun to note of their ambition for new developments in their place to incorporate public art to help meet other initiatives, such as high-quality design’s, sustainability, and the creation of healthy communities. The aim being to attract investors and creating a place where people want to live, work and visit.

Of course, The city or town does not replace an art gallery, and people will engage with the art and space in different ways. Artwork in the public domain will always have to negotiate with the other pressures that are put on the urban space.

The talks will also touch upon questions of sustainability, impact, engagement, and inclusivity to ensure that a broad range of approaches and studies of public art are discussed.


2.00–2.10pmWelcome and Introductions

Rachel Nickeas, Membership Coordinator, Institute of Place Management

2.10–2.30pm‘Street art in Cheltenham’

Helen Mole, head of place marketing and inward investment at Cheltenham Borough Council &
Andy ‘Dice’ Davies, director of Cheltenham Paint Festival

Cheltenham Paint Festival was founded in 2017 and has created a legacy of large-scale diverse artwork in free-to-view locations. Cheltenham Borough Council has long supported this event, recognising the value to the destination in terms of placemaking, civic pride and culture. We will hear from the council’s head of place marketing and inward investment about how they work with the Paint Festival, alongside the director and founder of the festival, Andy ‘Dice’ Davies, who will share some stories and lessons he’s learned along the way.

2.30–2.50pm — ‘Nuart Aberdeen: Rewilding the Granite City’

Ross Grant, project manager, Aberdeen Inspired BID &
Jon Reid, street artist, general manager, Peacock Visual Arts and artist host for Nuart Aberdeen

The iconic annual Nuart Aberdeen Festival, which commenced in 2017, is viewed widely as one of the best curated street art festivals in the world. Aberdeen city centre plays host to one of the greatest concentrations of street art murals, from Scotland’s largest murals, to some of the smallest works. The festival was pivotal to Aberdeen Inspired winning a plethora of awards including the European BID of the Year in 2017 and the International Downtown Association Award of Excellence in 2018. This presentation will focus on how the festival has managed to deliver legacy far beyond the murals created and in changing public perceptions in and about the city, about widening access and participation in art and improving public space.


2.55–3.10pm‘Croydon Stands Tall - The Tallest Trail in town’

Matthew Sims, chief executive, Croydon BID

Welcome to Croydon Stands Tall – a fun and free 10-week art trail. 30 giant giraffe sculptures and 30 baby giraffe sculptures appeared across Croydon town centre, waiting to be discovered! Each of the 30 large giraffe sculpture were beautifully decorated by an artist and sponsored by a local business; the baby sculptures were created by local schools and community groups. Visitors were invited to pick up a trail map and download the Croydon Stands Tall mobile app to navigate the trail, discover new places, and unlock exciting rewards and discounts. Last stage - the giant giraffe sculptures auctioned off at a special event to raise funds to support charity partner, Crisis Skylight Croydon.

3.10–3.25pm‘Public Art in Placemaking: Exeter’s collaborative approach’

Belinda Dillon, programme manager, Creative Arc and partnership & development manager, Exeter Culture

Creative Arc is a strategic collaboration between the University of Exeter and Exeter City Council to create a programme and network focusing on cultural innovation to shape place. We co-commission and advise on Public Art through Exeter Culture – an arts and culture development programme that provides support and advocacy across the creative ecology of the city, to ensure that individual practitioners, organisations and initiatives in the sector can play a key role in Exeter's place-shaping strategies and ambitions.

3.25–3.30pmSum up

Iain Nicholson, Strategic Development Lead

3.30pmThank you and close

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