“In a challenging climate of austerity and extreme pressure on public funds and key public services, it’s important to locate creativity centrally in the public realm, for all to experience and place value on arts and culture.”
Craftspace Director Deirdre Figueiredo is explaining why In:Site, a festival of recent graduate work in Birmingham’s Cathedral Square, forms an integral part of the organisation’s work in commissioning and supporting contemporary craft. Now in its third year, the week-long festival presents site-specific crafts in unexpected contexts, turning a busy city-centre square into a public showing of creative activity.
“A festival like this, in the heart of a commercial and business district, provides the opportunity for a wide range of people to encounter site-specific artwork,” says Figueiredo. “In the context of new graduates, it is a chance to showcase national emerging talent and reflect trends and new thinking in creative production.”
Open to new 2013 graduates only, the festival began life in 2011 as a one-day event featuring the work of just three graduates. It has now expanded to include opportunities for 20 makers and artists, operating at what Craftspace describes as the cutting edge of contemporary craft.
“Graduates have not always had the opportunity through their coursework to consider socially-engaged practice or create public art,” says Figueiredo, who through Craftspace is often involved in commissioning public art or bespoke work for particular settings. “The context and brief for In:Site provides graduates with the chance to test the viability of ideas, go through the process of a live commission, respond to a brief and a specific site, and engage with the public at first hand.”
This year, the festival features a series of craft interventions taking place over six hours each day, turning the making process into a performance – a result, says Fugueiredo, of many of the selected graduates proposing performance-related or interactive work. “This perhaps reflects the way makers are thinking about meaning and engagement within their practice,” she adds.
Another new innovation for 2013 is a one-year-on week-long residency, presented in partnership with VSM (UK) Ltd, who distribute sewing machines. This year’s residency has been awarded to Harriet Riddell, a graduate who participated in 2012.
While In:Site is open to recent graduates from all over the country, Birmingham – the city Craftspace calls home – plays an important role in the festival and the work on show. “The work is read in the context of the specific history, environment and current usage of Cathedral Square,” explains Figueiredo. “With its industrial heritage of making, the uniqueness of the Jewellery Quarter and a thriving independent arts sector, the city is full of fascination and interacting ecologies.”
In:Site continues until Friday 13 September, Cathedral Square, Birmingham. insitefestival.wordpress.com