Regency Park Community Centre, Wartling Road, Eastbourne
Elevation, a public art project by Sussex-based artist Will Nash, has lent the otherwise undistinguished facade of Eastbourne's Regency Park Community Centre a vibrant new identity. Drawing on the enthusiastic contribution of local residents who are themselves represented in the work, elevation demonstrates how contemporary art incorporating new technological innovation and drawing on community involvement can invigorate the visual environment.
Not all public art projects deliver genuine, tangible benefits to the communities for which they're intended, but Sussex-based artist Will Nash's transformation of Regency Park Community Centre is a notable exception, enriching not only the visual appeal of the building for which it was designed, but the quality of life for local residents.
In January 2011, the new Wartling Road community centre presented little more than an anonymous, weatherboarded facade, communicating almost nothing about its social function. Twelve months on, Nash's ingenious intervention has inscribed the building's blank side elevation with a vibrant frieze of interacting figures, jumping, stretching, skipping, waving, or simply standing still, content to be included in the happy throng. At the centre, wearing her ceremonial chain of office, rises (or soars) Eastbourne's mayoress Carolyn Heaps, arms benevolently outstretched.
An apparently simple construction, Elevation deftly conceals a series of complex technical processes. Closer scrutiny reveals how the 'climbing frame' structure that binds the figures together has been meticulously planned to take account of the overlapping boards in which the building is clad. This minimises any bends and undulations in the steel cross-members, reinforcing the grid's structure and preserving the integrity of the silhouette outlines. Computer-aided design and modelling were integral to the work's creation, but nowhere are they apparent in the final outcome, which retains the pleasingly spontaneous quality of freehand drawing.
Elevation is an apt name for the work, nodding not only to the architecture it so cleverly enlivens, but to the local people who modelled for it (with a little help from a mini trampoline). Those enthusiastic volunteers can take pride in having helped create a landmark and focal point that is also about community memory and shared social experience. The children who joined in may one day point to elevation and say, "That's me up there."
Text by Tom Flynn