As national lockdown restrictions begin to ease you may be planning to head into the city centre over the next few weeks. Well, if you do, make sure you pay a visit to see the art exhibitions that have popped up in two of Exeter’s empty retail units.
The artwork, crafted by local artists Naomi Hart and Emma Molony respectively, is part of the Trade and Exchange commission which seeks to highlight the city’s support for the cultural sector and the importance of culture in Exeter’s recovery from the pandemic. In this case by transforming vacant retail units into art spaces, cultural organisations are animating the city centre and helping to fill the gaps left by retailers.
Led by Exeter Culture, it is funded by the Liveable Exeter programme, managed by Exeter City Council, and the Next Chapter project at the Devon and Exeter Institution, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.
You may be wondering why Liveable Exeter, a housing programme, is interested in supporting cultural recovery. Well, while building 12,000 new homes for the city is no easy feat, alongside that Liveable Exeter seeks to create and support communities. Culture and arts are a big part of this.
Culture is our human condition. It drives our wellbeing and the narrative for our lives with evidence demonstrating how culture-led regeneration and investment can help drive local economic growth, help regenerate the high street, and promote social cohesion.
Exeter was granted Cultural Compact funding from Arts Council England in 2019. This Compact brings a range of stakeholders together to put arts at the centre of development plans for the city, recognising the importance of culture to placemaking and citizen’s wellbeing. Exeter is one of the first cities in the country to take this approach, set up in response to the Cultural Cities Enquiry report (2019).
Lucy Studholme, a member of the Liveable Exeter Place Board told us: ‘Exeter’s heritage and culture has always been, and will always be, a creative beating heart across the city.’
During the pandemic the cultural sector, and the myriad of freelancers who work within it, have been faced with job losses as theatres, venues, bookshops and events closed. Therefore as part of the city’s plan to Build Exeter Back Better strategies have been established around enhancing and re-shaping the entertainment and cultural offer in the city centre, including UNESCO City of Literature Status, to attract a wider range of people to the city centre and support the health and wellbeing of our local communities.
Of course, it’s not just the cultural sector who benefit from projects like this. Through the Trade and Exchange project our Exeter based artists have been able to work and support Fab Lab, Double Elephant Print Workshop as well as other local freelancers and businesses, further supporting the ecology of the city as we all start rebuilding after a year in lockdown.
The value of culture as an important piece of the city’s placemaking agenda is something that has been supported by members of the Liveable Exeter Place Board, along with the need to ensure that culture is diverse and inclusive and woven into the city’s fabric across the board.
The installations will be ready to view from the 12th April to the 28th May 2021.
Naomi Hart – ‘Shell’ - SU29, Princesshay, Exeter (between Lush and Hotel Chocolat, opposite New Look)
Emma Molony – Horticultural Gold - Exeter Works, Dix’s Field, Exeter EX1 1GF
More information about the artists and the artwork is available on the Exeter Culture website: https://exeterculture.com/trade-exchange