Handsworth Park Arts Trail

HANDSWORTH PARK ARTS TRAIL

Following a successful temporary arts trail in 2015, Handsworth Creative is developing a permanent Arts Trail in Handsworth Park. 

The Handsworth Park Arts Trail will lead to the creation of six new pieces of public art over the course of three years. In addition there will be series of smaller, temporary arts pieces which will be mounted on the Plinth (retained after the Big Hoot in 2015) which is situated by the Boathouse Café.
Commissioned artists will be working with local schools or community groups in the design of the art works, and each year’s pieces will be developed following an annual open commission, and chosen by a selection panel. The panel is chaired by Anne De Charmant, Director and Head Curator at Meadow Arts, and includes representatives from Friends of Handsworth Park and Birmingham City Council. 
Perry Barr Arts Forum has been involved in helping promote the project to local artists and facilitating partnerships with local schools and community organisations. The robustness, durability and suitability of the art work for installation in Handsworth Park are important criteria for the selection of the artists and designs, but of course we are principally concerned to bring original and entertaining art pieces to Handsworth. We are very grateful for funding from The Arts Council England (ACE), Birmingham City Council, and the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbour Programme. The Handsworth Arts Trail is working alongside the Aston and Newtown Commissioning Programme project ‘Veranda Stories’, involving older people from Pannel Croft Extra Care Village, Bangladeshi women from Saathi House and attendees at the Dementia Café at Soho House.

NEW WORK FOR 2017

Artist: Luke Perry

The SS Journey

SS Journey was inspired by the journey made by Luke’s relatives who made the epic sea crossing from Jamaica to Handsworth in the 1960s. The piece is cast in Bronze and the figure at the bow of the ship was based on the local character Hector Pinkney – “Mr Handsworth OBE”, who is known by most people in Handsworth for his warm welcome to young and old from all communities to the neighbourhood he loves so dearly. Luke Perry is a sculptor, working primarily in metal work and is a Director of Industrial Heritage Stronghold, a not-for-profit company based in The Black Country. Many of the pieces produced by Industrial Heritage Stronghold celebrate the rich industrial history of the region, using community engagement to shape the design and meaning of the artwork.

Artist: Pauline Bailey

Veranda Stories/ Pyramid Tower

The Pyramid Tower from Veranda Stories is located a few hundred yards from the ‘Sons of Rest’ building. The galvanized steel tower was designed by Birmingham based visual artist Pauline Bailey, in collaboration with the Women’s Sewing Group at Saathi House who co-designed many mandala patterns, which Pauline then developed and had laser cut to decorated each side of the three-metre high steel tower. Elders from Panel Croft Extra Care Village and Pearl’s Memory Café Dementia Group at Soho House also participated in workshop activities, and while the design of the piece was mostly informed by the workshop activities with the Saathi House women’s group, (partially in celebration of the year of South Asian Arts), all three groups shared their stories during the workshop sessions designed to address health and wellbeing through the use of object and storytelling techniques. This is an approach often used by Pauline who has been involved in socially engaged arts practice for over thirty years. The artwork produced is often informed by the groups she works with or made in collaboration with them. Members of the public are also an integral part of Pauline’s installations through physically having to interact directly with them.

Artist: Mat Barber

Sun Guardian Bear

The Sun Guardian Bear is located at the entrance to the Community Garden that was opened in July 2017. It formed part of the large city-wide ‘Big Sleuth’ initiative that saw over 100 Bears displayed across Birmingham, many of which were auctioned off to raise money for the Birmingham Children's Hospital. The ‘Sun Guardian’ was designed and decorated by Mat Barber, a Birmingham artist and musician. Mat used a graffiti style in his work and the bear’s design is very bold with strong, clear, colourful patterns. The title of the piece links directly to environmental stewardship and illustrates how our connection with nature helps us live a happy and healthy life. Surrounded by fruit and vegetables grown by local people in the Park the ‘Sun Guardian’ is in the perfect place. Friends of Handsworth Park fundraised from Tesco Bags of Help and the Birmingham City Council Local Innovation Fund to ensure that their Big Sleuth Bear could be on permanent display in the Community Garden.

Artist: Katie Sturridge

The Anchor

The Anchor is located in the Community Garden and was originally commissioned as part of the first Handsworth Park Arts Trail, which included a number of temporary pieces of art work installed around the Boat Lake. The mirror polished stainless-steel spheres are at such a height that they reflected the park multiple times to the viewer, allowing people to carefully consider the environment and surroundings they are in. The anchor is also the symbol of the Birmingham Assay Office, linking through to the City’s wider heritage. Katie Sturridge’s practice relies on visual experiences and chance discoveries to evolve the work; importantly her work possesses a playfulness and willingness to explore new materials. By drawing attention to everyday items, and using them in an unusual way, they are given a new importance. The idea of balance is another common subject in her work. Whether it is physically balancing or suspending items, or balancing materials in a more sensitive way in terms of colour, shape or form. The installation explores the use of detail, and the different visual layers created. The sculpture could be seen as a whole, or when viewed close up the small intricacies that make up the piece, can be seen as detailed, individual parts.

Artist: Graham Jones

Carved Feather Tree Trunk Seat

The Bench was carved from the trunk of a single piece of oak in 2015. The piece was commissioned as part of the first Handsworth Park Arts Trail, which included a number of temporary pieces of art work installed around the Boat Lake. It is located close to the entrance in Hamstead Road, next to St Mary’s Church and the Boating Lake, which is a popular place for people to stop and sit and enjoy the tranquillity of this part of the Park. Graham works almost exclusively in wood, and was commissioned to produce a carving for the temporary Handsworth Park Arts Trail in 2015 and develop an abstract piece that would be a great storytelling tool. 

 With over 30 years’ experience working on a wide range of projects, Graham has developed an expertise in all kinds of woodcarving, and has regular commissions from private companies, galleries, public parks, schools, private individuals and Local Authorities. Graham describes how he came up with the design. “A beautiful piece of Birmingham grown oak was provided by Birmingham City Council Parks Department. It was so nice that I thought whatever I made with it would be good. As I began to shape it, not knowing where it would take me, a feather blew across the grass. There are many feathers by the lake from the water birds. 

The wind was strong and the feather was free in the wind. How to carve a feather in the wind I thought? The seat that was created from this idea can be seen and interpreted in many different ways, as it reminds people of many things.” This was born out during the time Graham was carving the wood in the park as many people stopped to talk to him about their interpretations of the art work as it emerged, many coming back day after day. The carved seat will remain in situ in the park and hopefully will be used for many years to come.

Manufactured by Saracen Foundry

Victorian Drinking Fountain Canopy

When the park was originally opened in 1888 it was named Victoria Park. Not everyone supported the creation of a public park, however Councillor Austin Lines was a major proponent of the park and after its establishment donated the Drinking Fountain, which was made at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow. It was originally located elsewhere in the park but was moved to its current location in the 1950s, and now no longer contains the original Drinking Fountain. In recent years, the canopy has found a new use, and has become a popular place for newly married couples to have wedding photographs taken! The Canopy that remains is seated on a two-tiered octagonal plinth with eight columns with complex open filigree, a ribbed dome and various decorations depicting Griffins, Cranes, Doves and Flowers. The original font for the fountain contained a large Salamander and Crane. Symbolism was very popular in Victorian times, Griffins were symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions, Salamanders display bravery and courage that cannot be extinguished by fire; and Cranes were recognised as a symbol of vigilance.

Artist: Lawson Oyekan

Hands and Minds Speak

The piece carved from Cornish Granite was part of an art programme that was set up by Birmingham City Council to commission contemporary, diverse artists to make new public artworks for heritage restorations in parks across the City. Lawson is a British Nigerian contemporary ceramic sculptor and the first recipient of the Grand Prix Award for the 1st World Ceramic Biennale 2001 in Korea. He is well known for his hand built larger, monolithic forms. There is a presence in Oyekan’s forms that speak of his experiences and his upbringing. “My intent is to express human endurance and deliver a message of reassurance: that human suffering can be healed.”
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