Grosvenor and Hilbert Park share thinking behind £17,500 sculpture

Three black cats

Three boulder-like sculptures in Grosvenor and Hilbert Park have turned heads and raised debate since being unveiled last week.

Zephyr, works created by artist Richard Perry, cost £17,500 and were paid for in funds secured by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council as part of a Section 106 agreement.

Since the Times published the exclusive on Wednesday [April 12], followers on social media have questioned the design of the work and the amount of money it cost.

Carolyn Gray, Committee Member of Friends of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park, played a role in choosing Zephyr.

This week the Times gave her the opportunity to share her thoughts.

The three stones which form Zephyr are the third and final installations along the 21st cycle route from Tunbridge Wells town centre to Dowding Way.

This project started in 2011, and sees Grosvenor Rocks, metal trees at Dowding Way, and now Zephyr. Anyone who has followed the progress of this project via press, blogs, social media, and the Friends of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park, may remember that the final piece was proposed to be by Goods Station Road.

This [original] location did make more sense – the art would have been the beginning [town, formerly industrial, now residential], middle [formerly waste land, now park] and end [formerly farmland, now industrial estate] and each piece told those stories.

However, circumstances have meant the third piece is in the midst of the park, and no longer inspired by Tunbridge ware. Artist Richard Perry met the Friends group in 2017 and held a community art day to gather ideas of the park’s history and people’s feelings on the area.

The issue of community involvement was a query in Editor’s Comment [Times April 11], and personally I feel the chances for people to join in community involvement were there, all the time, since 2011. I guess it depends how much the community is aware of what is going on. The photo and comment used by the Times on Facebook this week certainly seemed to generate more interest than all the posters and social media posts we put out last April advertising the community art day…

The aim of the commission of art along the cycle route was to add interest to the route. It’s not a long way to cycle, but I’m guessing the pieces provide stopping points, meeting points, talking points. Zephyr is actually a very tactic piece of work, which fails to transmit in the 2D world of printed press, so I would encourage people to grab a bike, skateboard, jogging shoes, and come along and feel the smooth flows of the carving, and the rough textures of the untreated rock.

Money and councils are always a contentious issue. The idea of developer contributions to the community via Section 106 are odd, but as well as providing infrastructure they can be used to enhance the surroundings.

For us in St James’ area, we have seen the dustcart depot and roofing centre replaced by flats and car-parking. It could be said that this has already enhanced the area, but the developers provided money for town features which the council would never have bothered finding funds for [art and also work in the park restoration].

Money and art – aside from the cost of the granite, Richard Perry has earnt money as an artist for his time in carving and polishing. Very often we expect artists, musicians, writers, to just do things for free, do things for charity, so it’s excellent that some artisans get paid.

I’m sure the cost also covers Richard’s studio rent, hire of vehicle to deliver and install, so many people gaining employment and finance along the way from initial request to launch.

Does anyone ever query the cost of each exhibition held in The Museum’s Art Gallery? Fancy the outcry if the gallery was empty because there was no money to pay the artists and curators there?�It’s almost a case of damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Over time all three cycle route pieces will become a part of our townscape. It would be amazingly brilliant if there was much more.

Grosvenor and Hilbert Park has both a legal and a community graffiti wall, adding to the vibrancy of our area. Aside from the Civic Complex cultural debate, how awesome would our town be if it contained more art, not less? If public art can be funded by the companies building all these extra houses – bring it on!

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