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A new concept for the Gathering Place Inverness begins today

22nd June 2017

The artists selected for an iconic centrepiece of River Ness Public Art Programme have been announced today, 22 June 2017, at a stakeholder event held in Eden Court.

The concept for the new "Gathering Place" feature will be developed by the artists, Sans façon and OSA, through consultation with people who know, live by and use the river in Inverness.

The brief for the artists is to re-connect the city with the river, drawing out its stories, engendering a sense of place and creating some access to the river. The artworks should provide spaces where both residents and visitors can linger, gather in small or larger groups, contemplate different views of the river and draw people along its banks.

Professor Jim Mooney chaired the Evaluation Panel which selected the artists. He said: "The Gathering Place, as the name suggests is an attempt at placemaking i.e., creating a new civic space for Inverness. If we get this right, then the Gathering Place has the potential to bring a great variety of people together fostering beneficial social interaction and cohesion."

He went on to say: “Public art has a long history of stirring controversy; however, one of the key demands of art is to provoke thought and debate, as much as it is to stimulate the enjoyment of the senses and aesthetically enhance our lives.

“It requires an investment of time, energy and respectful dialogue to evolve a successful public art project. There is little point in art that simply reiterates the status quo, common consensus or dominant thinking or merely seeks to appease or please all.

“At best, public art can provide a new slant on the world, offer up the unexpected and deliver original perspectives that endure. It ought to be thought provoking, life enhancing, engaging and most importantly, forward looking and visionary. A great deal of research-backed evidence exists on the benefits of public art, its transformative power and its potential to regenerate.

Tristan Surtees of Sans Facon and OSA said: “Sans façon and OSA are delighted to have been selected as the collaborative artist team for the City of Inverness Gathering Place project.

“In the not so distant past, our relationship to rivers was a vital one, historically a place where people enjoyed being near and in the river. Nowadays, the active use of the river Ness is mostly enjoyed along its banks, sitting by on a sunny day, going on leisurely walks. Only aside from the salmon fishermen wading or the yearly Great River Ness Raft Race, people are perhaps not as directly in contact with this wonderful river as they once were.

“The Gathering Place project is an occasion to expand and express the qualities of the River Ness for both locals and visitors, developing a collaborative and engaging artwork shaped with and in response to the passion people feel for their river.

“Over 20 years of making site-specific artworks we have seen how important it is for a place and its people to shape a project. Over the next few months, we will be listening and developing a more precise understanding of the environmental, historical and current social relationship to the river with the people of Inverness, which will direct the design and development of the gathering place project, considering the full social role of the river Ness in the fabric of the city.”

Philip Deverell, Director, Strategy at Creative Scotland said: “We are pleased to see this next phase of the River Ness Arts project and welcome the appointment of Sans façon and OSA. Creative Scotland has worked closely with the Inverness City Arts working group to ensure this exciting and ambitious public art project is fully realised. We fully support the decision for the artists to work closely with communities in Inverness to co-create the final concept for the Gathering Place and are confident this will result in an important work of public art that will significantly enhance the overall River Ness Art Project and enrich the riverscape.”

Provost of Inverness, Cllr Helen Carmichael said: “I am delighted to see this project moving forward. The evaluation panel have selected very talented and world renowned artists and I am confident that Inverness will benefit greatly from such a pool of expertise creating a new Gathering Place concept which is intended to be another jewel in Inverness's crown.”

The Gathering Place is part of the overall £758,350 River Connections Public Art Programme which has been commissioned by The Highland Council's Inverness City Arts Working Group and has funding approval from The City of Inverness Common Good Fund (£280,750) (37%), Creative Scotland (£305,600) (40%), The Highland Council (£106,000)(14%) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (£66,000)(9%).

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