Housed at Glandŵr Cymru's stand, at the Royal Welsh Show, the occasion will be an opportunity to hear about the role arts have played and can play in promoting and strengthening communities and the heritage sector. The stand will also focus on the way the cultural, industrial and natural heritage of Wales offers inspirational settings for artistic creativity.
The waterways have a rich association with the arts and crafts, both traditional and contemporary, and as part of the Arts Council of Wales a public art strategic framework called Ideas, People and Places; the aim of the residencies is to engage high quality artists' practice with different audiences and communities.
First industrial nation
The canals of Wales were at the cutting edge of the world's industrial history and helped the country become the world's first industrial nation. Today people can still see magnificent feats of 200-year old engineering, like the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, working as they did when built.
The landscape is very different today and the picturesque charms of the canals now provide a haven for people and wildlife. The residencies will build on this fantastic canvas to inspire other partners to join in, to create a new generation of canal lovers and increase awareness of Wales' beautiful waterways.
Speaking ahead of the event, Welsh Government's Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths AM said: “There is a longstanding link between arts and the waterways. Art in all its forms has a fantastic capacity to surprise, delight, challenge and explore. This partnership will encourage people to visit and support the waterways and we hope that this initiative will make people smile and take a moment to stop and think about the wonderful canals that are on their doorsteps. Cadw, my historic environment service, has worked hard with the Arts Council of Wales to promote the historic environment through the arts”
Special and extraordinary
This exciting initiative developed through a strategic partnership provides the foundation for the creation of innovative arts and heritage projects. Successful artistic interventions in the public realm often call into question the dynamics of our relationship to place, community, and ownership and can at times demand our participation as an active citizen.
Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Wales added: “The high quality of work involved in this project reflects the ambition of this unique partnership between the Arts Council of Wales and the Canal & River Trust. The arts can be enjoyed in many ways, and in many different settings. One of the Arts Council's key goals is to encourage more people to experience and be inspired by the arts. At their best, the arts have the power to help us look afresh at the world around us, and I hope that this joint venture does just that by imaginatively transforming the everyday into something special and extraordinary.”
Dr Mark Lang,chair of Glandŵr Cymru – Canal & River Trust in Wales, concluded: “Contemporary artwork is an inherent part of the present day and future development of the canals. The arts have historically helped to win new supporters for the waterways' cause, and the residency programme will find creative new ways to introduce more people to the canals and rivers as friends and supporters while also engaging with existing communities. This ultimately, I feel, will enhance their cultural relevance, enrich their heritage and ensure the longer term preservation of the canal system.”
Hub of activity
The first two residencies will start in 2013 with a six-month residency on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and a year-long residency on the waterways of the Welsh Marches. On the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, the appointed artist will work within the Blaenavon World Heritage Site and the Brecon Beacons National Park, working with the local community, boaters, cyclists, walkers, paddlers and businesses to stimulate the creation of a hub of activity at Goytre Wharf.
The second, year-long, residency will see an artist responding to the mix of architecture, engineering and people in six countries, including England and Wales, where waterways cross national borders in Europe. The artist will connect with major European arts and waterways events, raising the international profile of Wales' canals and rivers.
In order to bring artistic excellence to the programme, a professional curator will be engaged to research and manage the call out to artists for the residencies. The curator will undertake an agreed schedule of management and monitoring of the artists' residencies once they have commenced and will report to a Project Advisory Group. An advisory group of five individuals will be selected to act as a sounding board for the Trust as the residencies develop and to address the legacy of the programme. It will also act as a support system for those overseeing the programme.