Battle of Ideas – Public Art: Feeding the soul on Glasgow’s Subway?

A panel of social commentators, public officials and artists are meeting on Tuesday 19 November to ask ‘public art – what’s the point?’

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) is hosting an Institute of Ideas live debate at the Glasgow Film Theatre on the role and relevance of public art.

Claire Fox, Institute of Ideas Director and panellist for BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze, will be chairing the debate. On the night people will have the opportunity to hear views from acclaimed contemporary artists, and Glasgow School of Art alumni, Toby Paterson and Andy Scott. SPT elected member, North Lanarkshire Councillor David Fagan and sociologist and cultural commentator Dr Tiffany Jenkins will also be joining the panel.

The debate is a satellite event as part of the Institute of Idea’s annual London based Battle of Ideas festival. It comes at a time when, as part of the on-going Subway Modernisation project, SPT has pledged to install works of art in all 15 stations on the Subway network.

SPT elected member David Fagan said:

“I’m a big advocate of public art being truly public and delighted that SPT – as part of Subway modernisation plans – has made a commitment to making art available to the millions of passengers who use the network every year. We believe it enriches the Subway environment and our customers’ journey experience.

“The response to Alasdair Gray’s mural commissioned for Hillhead station has been overwhelmingly positive and we have very exciting plans which includes world-class artists, lined up for stations about to undergo refurbishment in the coming years.

“This event gives us a great opportunity to engage with our audience and give them an insight into why we are developing an art strategy and why we believe it is so important to share an enjoyment of contemporary art with our customers.”

The Battle of Ideas, the brain child of Claire Fox, is a forum for no-holds barred public debate on key questions facing society today on everything from politics and science to the arts and education. Speaking about the event, Claire said:

“Whatever the topic, we think it’s vital that we examine these issues from the perspectives of principle rather than just cost/benefit. It’s our duty, whether on a platform or as members of the public, to critically examine and rigorously debate the ideas shaping the future.

“As Glasgow’s Subway is bringing the question of public art to the fore there couldn’t be a better time for the Battle to be adding Glasgow to the ever-growing list of international cities we work in.

“At a time when so much debate around public projects focuses on their instrumental economic and social worth, it’s also deeply refreshing to have the opportunity to ask probing questions about their artistic value: do we, the public, even need art all over our cities? Should local authorities simply stick to what they know best?”

Find out more about this event