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The Channel 4 Big Art Project in St.Helens

The Big Art Project is the UK’s largest ever community-led public art commissioning scheme & Channel 4’s most ambitious ever arts-related TV series.  In addition to leaving a lasting physical legacy, the aim of the Big Art Project is to inspire local communities & promote a national debate about the impact of art on ordinary people’s lives.   

The Sutton Manor site in St.Helens was chosen in part thanks to its rich cultural resonance former as a former Colliery but also on the basis of its highly visible location beside Junction 7 of the busy M62 motorway, midway between Manchester & Liverpool & at the heart of North West England.   The working title for the project is “ex terra lucem” (out of the earth comes light) & the intention is to create a high impact, forward-looking artwork to put St.Helens on the map & symbolise the positive post-industrial & cultural transformation the Borough has undergone in recent years.  The aim is also for the artwork to become an iconic, new, internationally recognised landmark for England’s Northwest at the gateway to Merseyside, that will help attract visitors & investment, & act as a catalyst for further regeneration activities, while creating positive image, identity & local pride.   

The commission will be developed & created by internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa. Born in Barcelona, Jaume has exhibited all over the world & completed major commissions in Canada, Israel, Japan, France, Germany, & the United States.  His most famous work is the “Crown Fountain” in the centre of Chicago, while his public artworks in the UK include a laser sculpture at the Baltic Arts Centre in Gateshead &, most recently, a spectacular new sculpted & illuminated glass dome for the BBC’s Broadcasting House HQ in London.   The project is being managed & delivered by the Council’s Economic Development Team in partnership with Channel 4’s Big Art Trust.  It is being curated by Liverpool Biennial, with the active involvement of a group of former miners from Sutton Manor Colliery, & supported by the Forestry Commission. 

A customised community engagement programme of education & outreach projects is being delivered by Helena Housing Association in tandem with the main Big Art Project commission.  Subject to planning permission, the intention is for the new St.Helens artwork to be installed & unveiled in time for the launch of the prime time Channel 4 TV series sometime during 2008, the year that neighbouring Liverpool is Europe’s Capital of Culture. In short, the project represents the “Holy Grail” of UK regeneration – a transformational, innovative & high impact initiative in a strategically important, prominent site on brownfield land, with the active, direct involvement of the local community, delivered via a broad-based partnership, & the subject of a prime time national television series… 

Downloads  Big Art Project Artist’s Brief 

For more information about the Big Art Project in St.Helens, please contact John Whaling, Economic Development Manager, via 01744 456 047 or johnwhaling@sthelens.gov.uk, or visit www.bigartsthelens.com.