Public Art Examples – Success at University

In the last post I investigated the benefits and differences between temporary and long-term Public Art. In this week’s post I will discuss two examples of Public Art at university. One of these is a long-term installation the other was short term. At university the success between long-term and short-term installations is similarly effective in different ways. Which raises the question how we can measure success?

‘Day Trip’ by Sarah Braman

Sarah Braman was born in 1970 in Tonawanda, New York.  She currently lives and works between New York and Amherst, Massachusetts. Sarah Braman is well known for her large-scale sculptures. She is interested in links between sensory and emotional experiences in art. She uses scrap-yard materials and combines them with her vibrant Plexiglas’s coloured windows and concrete sculptures. Her work considers themes of home, family, minimalism and nature.

‘Day Trip’ is a part of a multi piece temporary exhibition at the University of Massachusetts called ‘Cross Town Contemporary Art’.  I have decided to look at this piece due to an article I read, ‘Can Public Art Mend The Divide Between A Town and University?’ (will have link embedded). ‘Day Trip’ by Braman is a concrete cube with violet glass windows. One of the window ledges includes a free library in which locals could borrow or leave old books. It was used by families by day time and at night homeless people had been sleeping inside. Importantly, the piece along many of the others was only up for 2-3 months.

Curator Sandy Litchfield, at left, and artist Sarah Braman sit inside Braman's "Day Trip" in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Curator Sandy Litchfield, at left, and artist Sarah Braman sit inside Braman’s “Day Trip” in Amherst, Massachusetts. Photograph: Jill Kaufman / NEPR

“I wanted to make a place for people to come, to experience the light,” -Braman 

The aim was that art pieces like hers would encourage more residents and students at UMass to engage with each other. The art would act as a conversation starter between the two. The divide is often caused by rowdy students, which has caused residents to ask that more students live on campus. On the other hand, the article mentions that students feel unwelcome in town. As a part of the project there was a planned parade on the 22nd September 2018, which was towards the end of the installation period (1st November). Musicians and stilt walkers lead the parade from campus and would stop at each sculpture in order to encourage “community-bonding”. [1] [2]

My thoughts

I think is many ways this piece is quite successful. The Universities project acts as a gesture towards residents. I can imagine that the project allowed for conversation between students and residents. Because the piece is temporary some might argue that its effects aren’t long term. However, I would argue that it being short term ensures that the university doesn’t domineer public spaces. Hereby, the installation acts as an event – for example, the parade that was planned towards the end of its installation. It is uncertain whether these were successful in mending the divide between residents and students. One curator mentions in the article, “Yet there’s no guarantee this art exhibit will change the dynamic between the school and the people who live in town. That’s up to the people, not the art”. I will agree with them there. This also highlights an important question: Is it possible to measure the success of Public Art? And is it possible to define what success is for Public Art? One could perhaps carry out a case study over the term of the exhibition. Perhaps it is the article on the piece which reflects that the work is having some impact. If its proposition is to start the conversation, then it has been successful. The work cannot do this inherently it has to happen naturally. The University recognizes that there is a problem present. A temporary public exhibition has created space and time for conversation.

John Kearney – ‘Horsepower I’

Kearney in known for his welded steel sculptures which are small and large in scale. He usually uses animal forms as his subjects. He studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan after serving in the navy for four years. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924. He was the co-founder of the Contemporary Art workshop in Chicago in 1949, which provided emerging artists with studio and exhibition space.

Jonn Kearney – Horsepower 1

‘Horsepower I’ (pictured) is a sculpture at University of Illinois Chicago library. It consists of two large horses made from welded steel car bumpers, and is a part of the public art collection at the city of Chicago. Hereby, the sculpture makes a link between the use of horses and cars. Horses aren’t often used for carriages of field work anymore. The car bumpers replace the form and energy of the two horses. On the other hand, the piece could be encouraging the usage of recycled material. However, it yearns to return to more traditional forms of sculptural public art.

The usage of bumper cars might also relate to Chicago’s history in the auto manufacturing industry. In Chicago one of the first horseless car races was held:

“The 1895 race in a way marks the beginning of Chicago’s auto manufacturing industry; at least six local tinkerers tried to build vehicles for the race but were unable to complete them in time. In the final five years of the nineteenth century at least 22 local companies were formed to build and sell horseless carriages, and at least 12 got their vehicles into production.

Although Chicago never quite rivalled Detroit as the nation’s auto capital, during the first decade of the twentieth century no less than 28 companies produced 68 models of cars in the Windy City and its environs. [3]

And still today the automobile industry is an important sector of Chicago’s economy.

My thoughts

In my opinion I find that this piece is more limited in its success. I do think that this piece does comment on the transition between horses and cars. However, this has no specific relevance to the University of Illinois in Chicago. Much rather, it reminds me of the large economic impact the auto manufacturing industry had in the USA and Chicago. I can see that the piece could create some sense of cultural background for Chicago students due to this. On the other hand, I would argue that the piece’s traditional whimsical appearance counteracts this intention. Its intention does not seem developed upon apart from its face value.

I would argue that the piece could have been more abstract or fragmented in form. It could have emphasized the usage of car bumpers to a greater extent. This may have emphasized its intentions of showing the transition between horses and cars. Students can relate to the feeling of transition as they undergo a period of life changes at University.

On the other hand, it could be argued that students feel a sense of ownership for the sculpture over time. The sculpture could be a part of the library’s visual identity or branding. Temporary work in comparison may not create the same kind of ownership. This raises questions about branding of Public Art. Does more traditional art like Kearney’s amass relevance over time? I will investigate this further in my next post.

 – Tom Hall

Sources: [1]  [2] [3]

Image 1: permission granted by Jill Kaufmann, photography by Jill Kaufmann for NEPR article ‘Can Public Mend The Divide Between A Town And Its University’

Image 2: by UIC Library Digital Collections, License:  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

STAFF-ONLY: Call-out for Public Art Commission Expressions of Interest

The University of Reading is seeking Expressions of Interest for the second in a series of public art commissions for campus. The commissions will use ‘the library’ as a conceptual, metaphorical, academic, physical, spatial and poetic starting point.


Following an external commission for the first project, this project will be an internal commission, open only to employees of the University of Reading. This includes anyone with a substantive employment contract at the University of Reading as of the deadline, regardless of grade or role. It includes those on fixed-term contracts. Applicants must demonstrate evidence of their experience leading similar projects in the past, as well as support from their Head of School/Department/Function and/or their line manager.


The internal commission will have a total budget of £25,000. This will include all costs, including materials, fabrication, and the employee’s time which will be arranged as a buyout (or buy-in) based on their existing contract of employment with the University. The applicant(s) cannot be paid on a freelance basis for this commission.


The output(s) of the commission are not defined in advance and will be articulated by the applicant. Due to the nature of the funding, there should be a tangible and lasting element to the outputs, situated in the University campuses.

In addition to a tangible piece of work, we expect to see evidence of one or more of these outcomes achieved by the commission:

  • Traditional research output
  • Forging interdisciplinary connections
  • Work towards an identified research bid, or part of an existing research project or grant
  • Enhance existing or propose new teaching and learning practices
  • Contributing to other University activities or priorities, such as public engagement and widening participation

Although not a requirement, we encourage projects that demonstrate collaborative working within the University.

Deadline for Expressions of Interest is Monday 10 February 2020, 12 noon.

For further information and to apply please download the full brief here:

Call-out for Expressions of Interest – staff public art commission

Public Art Examples – Long term and temporary

I’m Tom, a third year student of Art and English at the University of Reading, on placement with Arts Development Officer Miranda Laurence.

As part of a series of guest posts, I will now be exploring some examples of Public Art. I’m specifically looking at the differences and similarities between long term and temporary art in the public space. Both examples in this post are pieces I have seen in person. My aim hereby is to investigate, ‘What makes different aspects of public art successful and in which ways it does this?’

Rick Kirby – Lincoln Drill Hall Face

This large steel sculpture of a face by Rick Kirby is mounted on a brick wall outside the Lincoln Drill Hall, which is now used as a multi-purpose arts centre and theatre. It was installed in 2007 and is welded together of stainless-steel strips. The piece overlooks the entrance of the theatre venue. It is also situated by the public library and near the Broadway mall shopping centre.

Rick Kirby has over 27 public commissions to date. He initially started his career as an art teacher and then became successful at selling his stone carvings. He transitioned to steel welding due to the large scale it allowed him to work in.

This piece is from my hometown. It has made a lasting impression on how I identify with this certain area of Lincoln. It has a dull expression conveying coldness, sadness and loss. Personally it reminds me of the Greek symbol of theatre the ‘Comedy and Tragedy Masks’ due to its location at the drill hall theatre. The face might also be a reflection upon Lincoln’s culture and history. Lincoln is known as the ‘home of the tank’ and for its large industrial areas.

Rick Kirby, Lincoln Drill Hall

In a BBC Lincolnshire online article the author asks readers to leave opinions on the sculpture. I find these conversations is very exciting.

Comments board from BBC Lincolnshire online article

I think its awfull, looks really miserable and mardy, why couldnt it of been a cheerfull face?

I lyke your face!

Les Woods of Lincoln
If I said I didn’t like it, would they take it down!It does look impressive in the photo. What will visitors to Lincoln find inside the building?

Wendy Parker
I was actually at the Drill Hall when the Face was being installed, and after reading the article in the Lincolnshire Echo had made up my mind that I would find it too modern and not right for it’s resting place. But, I was most impressed with it, found it inspirational, and a credit to it’s designer Rick Kirby. Incidently I was there as a part of a Writers Group who meet every Wednesday at the Drill Hall, and we have all written a poem in honour of the Face, and sent our opinion of this creation to Karen Parsons Book Editor of L.E. It is easy to be judgemental of anything new, but modern art should be given it’s chance to flourish in my opinion. WENDY PARKER, LINCOLN

Ben Marston
Yeah i think it looks great. Give something new to Lincoln

It looks absolutely fab. I made a special trip to have a look at it today going up and I love it. Although the elderly couple next to me said it looked lke Richard O’Brian!

 view full article

My thoughts

This comment section from 2007 shows how varied the discussions about public art can be. Some of the comments aren’t pleased with the sculpture’s appearance. For example, Tracy questions ‘why couldn’t it have been a cheerful face?’. Then Wendy admits she had already made up her mind before seeing the final piece stating it is “too modern” for its location. However, she then changes her mind upon seeing it writing, “It is easy to be judgemental of anything new, but modern art should be given it’s chance to flourish”.

Furthermore, some of the comments are very supportive: “I think it looks great” Ben writes, as does Brenda stating, “It looks absolutely fab… looked like Richard O’Brian”. Most of the comments discuss the pieces visual appearance. Personal taste and appearance seem to play a big role in how people perceive public art.

The location also seems to play an important role. Some of the comments suggest that the drill hall seems unsuitable for this piece. I would argue however, that the mask like sculpture suits the re-purposed drill hall well. Because of the building’s links to the arts and theatre. Furthermore, Les Woods comment shows that the public often feel there is no agency surrounding public art. He writes, ‘If I said I didn’t like it, would they take it down?’. I agree that many of us feel we have no power or influence within public art. This can feel quite demotivating. What would it mean to create public art that pleases everyone? With Wendy’s example she had preconceived ideas that she would not like the face of the drill hall. There seems to be fixed idea about what is right or wrong, an assumption that art should be decorative seems prevalent. I will now consider Olafur Eliason’s temporary public art piece ‘ice watch’.

Olafur Eliason/Minik Rosing – Ice Watch

This project displayed ice-blocks, accessible to anyone, in a square in front of the Tate Modern. The ice-blocks were fished out of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming detached from an ice sheet. When they were installed, each ice block weighed between 1.5 and 5 tonnes. The estimated energy cost for bringing one of these blocks to London is equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back to witness the ice melting.

I had the opportunity to visit this piece last December (2018). It is a great example of non-permanent art. Because it’s temporary it hits home the reality of global warming. If one visited the piece within a week’s space, the ice blocks would have completely transformed. As I was touching the ice blocks, I perceived that our control of global warming was slowly melting away.

Olafur Eliason and Minik Rosing, ‘Ice watch’

“Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.” -Olafur Eliasson

My thoughts

‘Ice Watch’ or temporary public art does something which long term public art cannot. The experience of seeing the ice melt away before one’s eyes becomes the meaning itself. The sculpture is a performance that passes by. In this instance it heightens the issues that it considers. A long term piece about global warming perhaps wouldn’t do this as effectively. However, long term public art I believe creates more of a sense of identity with a certain location, such as the steel face of the Lincoln Drill Hall.

There is certainly much variety in opinion, however it is important to carry this conversation further. It raises the question: How can we value the audience’s voice in public art? Perhaps public art is more successful if it doesn’t please everyone? Rick Kirby’s example is more traditional in its form. However, it still inspired much conversation within the community.

I propose that in a University setting for example, public art should be useful and have aesthetic value simultaneously. Perhaps, if it was a temporary piece its appearance might be less of a concern? The focus would be the art work’s cultural, practical or political aims. In my next post I will consider examples of public art at Universities and develop these thoughts further.

Image 1: by Jim Linwood, on, License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0),

 Image 2 : by  __andrew, on, License: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0),


Public Art at University

Hi, first of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Tom. I am a year three UoR student studying English Literature and Art. I am on a placement with Miranda Laurence the Arts Development Officer at UoR. I will be joining in on the conversation encompassing ‘Public Art at University’. I will regularly post on this blog and the University of Reading Arts twitter. I look forward to engaging with you and encourage any conversations.

For my first post, Miranda has tasked me with researching definitions for public art. What do I think is important about it and how could it be important at University? Below are some ideas based on the research I have undertaken.

What is ‘Public Art’?

  • Has no specific ‘form’ (scale, realism, abstract, painting, site-specific or in contrast)
  • Intention to be accessible to everyone
  • Incorporate community values, enhance environment, transform a landscape, create awareness.
  • Reflect the collective community
  • Doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, controversy is inevitable but signals that people care about their environment, which is healthy.
  • Most often involves artists, architects, design professionals, community residents, civic leaders, politicians, approval agencies, funding agencies and construction teams.
  • Should seek the most imaginative relationship between community and artist.
  • Modes and definitions are always changing, methods and materials change to reflect contemporary culture
  • Can be used as political tool, propaganda or civic protest
  • Can be non-permanent such as performance, dance theatre, poetry, graffiti, posters and installations
  • Many Artists feel conflicted about calling it ‘Public Art’ instead of just ‘Art’

“The term public art refers to art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been purchased with public or private money.” -Tate

‘Follow Me’ by Jeppe Hein, University of Bristol, 2009

What is the function of Public Art?

  • It is a part of evolving culture, collective memory
  • Adds meaning to cities/locations by reflecting society
  • Narrative of the public experience
  • Bring people together, define space, authenticate identity
  • Social inclusion by creating space that brings everyone together
  • Point of reference for a space
  • Branding of a specific location, cultural tourism, pride among residents, social and economic benefits
  • Inspire conversations, helps understand places better


What are my thoughts?

Public art can be very successful in bringing the community together. I think it does this by creating conversations about art and public spaces. The art is accessible to all people, in contrast to some exhibitions in art galleries which are either exclusive or expensive to visit. Often gallery work isn’t relevant to its space it could feel out of reach for some people, whereas public art is immediately available and will have a different relevance to the space for different people. I think this can create a sense of identity for certain spaces and areas and makes resident feel prouder.

I think that by engaging with contemporary cultural issues such as global warming the presence of public art helps remind people about these issues. For example ‘Ice Watch’ by Olafur Eliason and Minik Rosing, which I will talk about further in my next post. His ice blocks taken from Greenland and placed outside of the Tate moderns act as a signal for global warming. Being able to visit the piece in a public space gave me a feeling of immediacy about the global warming issue.


Why Public Art at University?

  • Can help mend divides between a town and the university, for example the University of Massachusetts used public art to create spaces in which students and residents could engage and break the divide. Such as Sarah Braman’s ‘Day Trip’, as pictured below, which I will investigate further in my next post.
  • Creates conversations between students about public art
  • Allows for creative spaces to inspire and relieve stress on campus. For example, at the University of Bristol ‘Follow Me’ by Jeppe Hein, a labyrinth made from mirrors as pictured above, reflects its surrounding and viewers. I imagine that this fragmented space can inspire its students creatively.
  • Can reflect cultural and social issues important to the University and its students
  • Creates a sense of identity and pride on campus
Image result for university of massachusetts public art
‘Day Trip’ by Sarah Braman, University of Massachusetts, 2018

never closer to midnight: live performance 26 September

Credit: Janine Harrington

never closer to midnight

Thursday 26 September

1pm and 3pm, Palmer Quad, Whiteknights Campus;

6pm, Reading Town Centre


A meditative, rhythmic outdoor live art installation, exploring our felt sense of urgency in the face of climate change. The project draws inspiration from the Doomsday Clock imagined by scientists in 1947 to convey threats to humanity and the earth.


This new work from artist Janine Harrington is a co-commission between the University of Reading and Reading Thames Festival. During her research process, Janine is in conversation with a number of researchers from the University of Reading, whose research interests overlap with the themes of the piece. The work will be performed by an 11-strong cast including members of the University and wider Reading communities.


Janine Harrington is an artist whose practice involves choreography, installation, writing and performance. She is interested in game structures, play, access, neurodiversity and the poetics of movement practices. Increasingly her work addresses sociality or ways of being together through exploring scales and movements beyond the human scale. 


Please note: in the event of heavy rain, performances may be stopped or moved indoors to the Bob Kayley Theatre, Minghella Building. Please wear weather appropriate clothing as audience members will be outdoors and standing throughout.

Public Art Commission: Artists announced

A sculpture incorporating recycled waste materials will be installed at the University of Reading as part of a wider public art project.

Artist duo Ben Cain and Tina Gverovic have been awarded a commission of £40,000 to create a sculpture for the University, inspired by its history, research interests and communities, and responding to the theme of ‘library’.

The colourful concrete sculpture, called ‘Metamorphic Station’, will incorporate waste materials like glass and other objects generated on campus, and will be located in the new library quad on the Whiteknights campus. It will provide a multifunctional space for students and staff to rest or work as well as for teaching and exhibiting.

Professor Robert Van de Noort, University of Reading Vice-Chancellor, said: “This sculpture is in keeping with our commitment to provide new and creative ways for our University community to connect socially and academically. The use of recycled materials will be visible evidence of our mission to reduce our carbon footprint as an institution.

“The sculpture also represents the value we place on arts and humanities at Reading. The artistic piece will act as a melting pot between different disciplines and colleagues across the University.”

Ben Cain and Tina Gverovic write:

“Sedimentation, bog-bodies, petrification, extinction, geological core-samples, the omni-present remains of everyday forms of production and consumption, these are some of the things we thought about as developed a plan for a public sculpture that functions as a social space, one which is formed from recyclable waste sourced in the immediate vicinity of the proposed work.

The sculpture, which is understood in part as a library of materials and processes and a site for presenting and discussing material research, incorporates stages, seating, tables and display units that are fabricated from treated materials gathered on site such as plastics, paper and glass. These materials will be mixed with other aggregates and binding materials to form solid forms.

The different types of material mixes will be developed through conversation and practical experiments with staff and students at Reading University, and the recyclable waste material will be selected and gathered with support from the Sustainability Services department on campus. Similar to a core-sample, the sculpture is a physical record of contemporary material realities. It’s also an attempt to consider concrete, waste, and various art/design/building materials in terms of multiple use and multiple purpose.

The work is a continuation of aspects of our work which merge objects and social spaces, and which set up encounters with discrete appearances of contemporary social and political realities.”

The sculpture is the first of a number of art installations planned for the University’s campuses in a £200,000 public art project. The project aims to enhance public spaces and communities on campus and build relationships with visitors through commissioning bespoke art pieces across campus. These are funded by a 1% levy on all major capital spend, creating a Public Art Endowment, ensuring more artwork can be commissioned in future.

The artists will now begin further design and research on their piece, including inviting input from students and academics through engagement activities and exhibitions. They are already in contact with staff from the School of Art, School of the Built Environment and Sustainability Services to utilise academic and staff expertise. The sculpture is planned to be installed by spring 2020.

A total of 54 artists expressed an interest following the University’s open call, before the Public Art Steering Group considered a final shortlist of ideas.

The chosen artists have 20 years’ experience of commissions in the UK and internationally, including Croatian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, Busan Biennale (South Korea), Wiels (Brussels), Tate Modern, Manifesta 09 (Genk, Belgium).


Urban Room : Arts Programme 14 May – 7 June

Be curious, be adventurous, be welcomed!

image by Piers Taylor

Second-year students from the University of Reading’s School of Architecture have collaborated in the design and build of an Urban Room, a temporary timber structure which carries the potential for enabling conversation and encounters between people and communities across Reading as a town and the University.

The Urban Room is situated on the University’s London Road campus, on the grass quad behind the School of Architecture, and is open access to everyone. As part of the University’s arts strategy, it will host a programme of arts-based activities, stimulating thinking and conversation about the significance of place to the feeling of community and belonging.

The arts programme will run from 14 May – 7 June. We welcome all members of the University and the general public to engage with the programme. Most events and activities are open to the general public on a drop-in basis.


Urban Room: Artist ‘micro-residencies’ (Arts Strategy with jelly)

Wednesday and Friday lunchtime ‘encounters’ 12-2pm, 15 May – 4 June

Scroll down for further information on artists and residencies…

We have collaborated with Reading arts organisation jelly to invite seven Reading artists to take over the space for a two-day residency, exploring an aspect of their own practice in response to the Urban Room. Each artist will host an ‘encounter’ to which all members of the University, and general public, are invited. You may drop in briefly or stay as long as you want. Please see below for further information about each residency and the encounter dates.

Urban Room: School of Art 

Monday 20 May, open all day, Lunchtime Conversation 1pm-2pm

What does it mean to take part? How do we value participation? How do we evaluate group work? What is the role of feedback in your research/ practice? Looking back at the School of Arts and Communication Design’s presence at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, March 2019, please join us in an open conversation on some of the themes and ideas we worked with at the Tate, back here in the context of Reading, including a re-working of the ‘Archive Wall’ and live re-runs of ‘Listen and Draw’.


Urban Room: Hybrid Practices (Arts Strategy, School of Architecture, School of Art)

Friday 7 June, 12-6.30

To culminate the Urban Room arts programme, we celebrate by exploring ‘hybrid practices’ through an arts-architecture lens. Co-conceived by staff from the Arts Strategy, School of Architecture and School of Art, this event will offer opportunities to move, discuss, think, experience and explore modes of interdisciplinarity with guest artist and architects.

Click here to find out more. You can register by contacting

**In very bad weather, some events may be cancelled as the structure is not entirely water and wind-proof**


Urban Room Artist Micro-residencies: further details


Linda Newcombe



Wednesday 15 May 12-2pm

‘Silent Book’

I have produced a limited edition of a hand-made and precious illustrated silent book. It contains no words except a sub-title. It has symbols, special papers and page turns.

I am interested in the complexities of emotional responses that a book can produce. I want to know if my book can transport readers into another world.

Philip Newcombe



Friday 17 May 12-2pm

‘The Sound of this Space’

a table, a typewriter, a sound recorder, headphones and a ream of paper.


Philip Newcombe is an artist based in Reading who exhibits nationally and internationally and is represented by Å+, Berlin.


Oren Shoesmith







Wednesday 22 May 12-2pm

‘I once was and now am’ – A sketch in radical vulnerability


In this temporary space there is no door, apart from the ones we create. Radical vulnerability is the practice of keeping ourselves open, for a shot at communion, honesty and care, for real connection with others. In intimate one on one discussions that mix what it is to be emotionally radical (or radical at all) with personal memoir, we will create a brief sketch in the political potential of vulnerability. Together, we will map out the doors that we need.

Lisa-Marie Gibbs





Friday 24 May 12-2pm

“We will all visit the same space and have that human connection within the Urban Room but each one of us will take away a different sense of place. You just couldn’t remember, I just couldn’t forget.”


Lisa-Marie Gibbs reaches outwards to the viewer for stories to be uncovered. The stories are suggestive of danger & innocence, fear & longing, secrecy & emotion, a place somewhere between dusk & darkness. Always in search of the immeasurable beauty in what it is to be human.



Reside Dance






Wednesday 29 May 12-2pm

‘Communitas’ and Place: A Celebration of the Transient


Reside Dance C.I.C. questions if a transient place can be celebrated. Often places that are considered transient are perceived as unhomely, unsettling and lacking identity and a sense of community. During this residency, Reside Dance C.I.C. will design and facilitate the Urban Room so that visitors can find their own togetherness and celebration of a transient place.


Reside Dance C.I.C. are a Reading-based, professional dance company that aim to bring individuals and communities together by developing connections to places and others through dance.




Mark Webber




Friday 31 May 12-2pm

‘Drawing from simplicity to complexity’


Mark will invite you to give him input into his drawing process, whether that is an idea, a conversation or even starting a drawing for him to continue later.


Mark has shown his work internationally and has had pop up shows in Reading, taking over a shop in the oracle for two months back in 2015. Mainly known for his typographic maps, he also works on other drawing ideas, mainly though the thought of complexity from simplicity.



Emily Gillmor






Tuesday 4 June 12-2pm

‘Past Present Presence’


The Urban Room inhabits a space that has known the presence of Emily’s family through five generations. Emily will use her residency of the Urban Room to explore the connection and affinity she feels towards the place – an unconscious link extending back through the generations, her own experienced memories, and a curiosity about the way the Urban Room allows her to reach out beyond the personal into the community.

During her encounter, Emily will welcome visitors to add a mark to a collaborative screenprint.


Emily was born and brought up in Reading. She is currently Printmaker in Residence in the IoE Art Department – a building next to the Urban Room where her Great Grandfather A.W. Seaby was Professor of Fine Art and her father Robert Gillmor studied for his undergraduate Fine Art degree.








Urban Room: May-June 2019

“Every town and city should have a physical space where people can go to understand, debate and get involved in the past, present and future of where they live, work and play. The purpose of these Urban Rooms is to foster meaningful connections between people and place, using creative methods of engagement to encourage active participation in the future of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.” (Urban Rooms Network – Place Alliance)


At the University of Reading this summer, we present the Urban Room: a temporary wooden structure which carries the potential for enabling conversation and encounters between people and communities across Reading as a town and the University. Built by second year Architecture students as part of their studies, the Urban Room will offer a visually stimulating focal point on the beautiful London Road campus of the University during May and June.


As part of the University’s arts strategy, the Urban Room will host a programme of events asking ‘how can arts practice help create a ‘door’ between the town and the University?’. We will be inviting Reading artists, University students and staff, community organisations and the public to discover and rediscover the Urban Room during a series of interventions, invitations and events.


Working with Reading arts organisation Jelly, we plan to host six artist micro-residencies, where for two days at a time artists will be invited to occupy the Urban Room, providing specific moments for the general public to encounter their practice and exchange ideas.

We have also invited Reading School of Art and Reading International to host reflective events on their recent community-facing programmes. Finally, we will celebrate ‘Hybrid Practices’ through an architecture-artist lens, inviting public, artists and University researchers to explore what happens when different expertises come together to explore one set of problems.


Following the Urban Room arts programme, the space will become an exhibition venue for Architecture students to show the outcome of their work. After dismantling, the Urban Room will have a further life at a nearby primary school as an outdoor learning space for children.



The Urban Room will be built by students from the School of Architecture between 26 April and 3 May, in collaboration with academic staff and external contractors:

Fabricators: Xylotek

Structural engineers: Corbett Tasker

Design team: Invisible studio

The Shanly group are working in partnership with the School of Architecture offering sponsorship as part of their 50 year celebration .

We would like to thank them for their contribution towards the Urban Room structure and sponsorship of our public lecture series


Key dates (subject to confirmation)

15, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31 May:

Public-facing artist ‘encounters’ will occur on Wednesdays and Fridays, 12-2pm, between 15 May and 31 May. All are welcome

7 June: ‘Hybrid Practices’ event (co-hosted by staff from the School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the Arts Strategy)

14 June: Architecture End of Year Show

21/22 June: University of Reading Open Day


Tree Conversations artist residency – reflections

Artist Rachel Barbaresi writes about her experience developing an artist residency for the University, which aimed to give University members new ways to interact with and notice their surroundings on campus. Participants were invited to join a series of ‘tree walks’ on campus, gathering ‘data’ and documenting what they saw in creative ways.


She writes:

“The aim of these workshops was to carry out collective visual research in response to trees at Whiteknights and the MERL gardens with participants from across roles and disciplines at Reading University. I wanted to take an approach that allowed room for subjective responses to the experience of observing and recording the trees, and for the backgrounds, interests and personalities of the individuals involved to play a role. So although the trees were our subject, there is a sense in which this was about the potential for discovery through bringing different backgrounds, disciplines and experiences to the process of observing and recording.


There were two walks in the MERL garden and two in an area of Whiteknights campus called ‘the wilderness’, and an additional walk in the Harris gardens. I became interested in the idea of avoiding photography as a form of documentation, and focussing on other, less familiar ways to record the trees. Participants were given a bag of materials and tools which included drawing implements, a range of drawing surfaces, acrylic work surface to enable tracing, slide cases which could be used for collecting fragments of moss, leaves etc, plasticine for taking impressions, tape measures, notebooks for writing. We also took sound recording equipment. Although I made some suggestions participants were invited to use the materials as they wished and there was freedom to experiment and invent.


Participants spoke about being outside their comfort zone and feeling anxious about taking part in a creative activity, worries about not being an artist and how their drawing ability would be judged. Some also spoke of a sense of anticipation in being able to open the bag of materials and explore and experiment with the contents.
Some of the problems which came from this way of working opened up unexpected possibilities. We decided to go ahead with plans despite forecasts of heavy showers, and undeterred, the group turned up in waterproofs. During the heaviest showers, the rain took away control over our drawing materials, paper becoming wet making drawing more difficult. Participants began to embrace the rain as part of the process, pressing soggy paper into bark of tree trunks to emboss it, causing ink to disperse through shaking water drops from tree branches and using wet mud and leaves in drawings. The weather brought an energy to the process and contributed to the creativity and invention.


It was interesting to work with a group which ranged from people who have arts training to those who have very little experience with drawing. It wasn’t entirely obvious, looking back through the drawings, whether people had experience or not. And when I had conversations with people afterwards about their ideas and approaches to the activities, there were creative approaches and outcomes which were not linked to drawing skills, but to ideas and lateral thinking.


Generally participants spoke positively about the experience despite the weather! One participant commented that she found it a very mindful experience. Others enjoyed the opportunity for creativity, and valued the time spent in beautiful areas of the campus with time to experience the space rather than rushing through. There was an intensity in the experience of looking and making. 


All of the drawings, plasticine impressions, notes and collections have been labelled and organised into an archive with the help of project assistant Sonya Chenery. We categorised items by the person who had created / collected them. The collections were displayed at the Cole Museum over two days, two weeks after the walks took place, and we explored different approaches to curating the outcomes. Visitors were invited to use the collection as a starting point for their own monoprints, lino-prints and tracings as a secondary way of connecting to the original experience of visually recording the trees.


Working collectively made me aware of how much I miss when looking around me and how subjective and individual our experiences are even when we are all working with the same subject matter. I became aware of certain trees, textures and shapes purely as a result of my co-researchers noticing and recording them. We have filters when experiencing the world around us, perhaps as a way of coping with the overwhelming volumes of sensory stimulation around us.


There is so much material to work with as a result of these workshops and I am beginning to think about ways of approaching the collection with an interest in how to develop the sense of archive and follow threads and relationships within the collection.



Tree Conversations: Artist Micro-Residency

Artist Rachel Barbaresi invites you to take part in her micro-residency at the University, as part of the ‘What is Public Art?’ series of activities this March.

Rachel will lead a series of creative research walks in the campus grounds, exploring their potential as spaces that invite university members to be outside their normal frame of reference and encounter new connections. She will then create a pop-up ‘studio exhibition’ in the Cole Museum, inviting further interaction from visitors, through creative responses to found items and considering different ways of categorisation and display.

Rachel writes:

“Using trees on the site as a focal point, we will work with a range of tools to record and collect data through experimental drawing processes (drawing ability is not necessary). Reading University campuses are renowned for the diversity and quality of its tree specimens and these will provide rich source material for our visual investigations.”

Each participant will be given a set of tools and materials for drawing and recording data. Guidance will be offered, but participants are invited to invent their own approaches to working with the tools and selecting data to record. Activities may include drawing, taking impressions using plasticine, photography, collecting (sound recordings, found objects), measurements and estimates.

On Wednesday 6 March you can join the research walks on campus. Walks take place at 10am or 11.30am in the MERL gardens (meet at MERL), and 2pm or 3.30pm on the Whiteknights Campus (meet at the Library Foyer). Please sign up in advance by emailing Miranda on stating your preferred time. Everyone is invited to take part – no experience is needed, just curiosity! (Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear for walking outdoors. In the event of bad weather the walks will be rescheduled.)

Rachel then invites further visitors to join her in curating the archive of drawings, which will take place during a ‘studio exhibition’ at the Cole Museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to respond to the archive through creative activities including monoprinting, casting in plaster, drawing, written reflections and creative writing. Guided by Rachel, visitors may also consider different approaches to categorising, displaying and interpreting the found and created items in this museum setting.

The studio exhibition will take place at the Cole Museum, during the day on 21 and 22 March and visitors are welcome to drop by for a short or longer period of time.

If you are interested in attending the studio exhibition at the Cole Museum, please email Miranda on to register your interest and you will then be sent further information about how to take part. Or you can drop in on the day.

Rachel will also invite responses to the research at the MERL Late event on 14 March ‘More Than Human’; to book for this event please visit the MERL website

Rachel Barbaresi’s previous projects have involved a range of approaches to participatory practice including reminiscence, working with archives and making. Taking urban spaces and architecture as starting points, her approaches to collective research incorporate the diverse voices of participants and a socially situated reading of place.