For six months, Bristol’s iconic Bearpit played host to a series of unusual interventions and encounters, interrupting the everyday life of the city. Art in Bearpit was a pilot programme of commissions and events developed for the Bearpit in central Bristol, taking place from May to November 2015.
Art in Bearpit was a partnership project produced by Hand in Glove, initiated by Bearpit Improvement Group. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Bristol City Council Creative Seed Fund.
As part of producing group Hand in Glove, Leela Thornfield developed the programme concept in partnership with Bearpit Improvement Group; wrote and secured funding bids from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council Creative Seed Fund and managed delivery of the programme.
The programme encompassed three new commissions by artists Philip Cheater, Megan Clark-Bagnall and Vickie Fear who were invited to respond to and infiltrate the whole of the Bearpit site and its users. In addition, three further micro-commissions by artists A-Peg, Polly Kelsall and Kypros Kyprianou were presented following an open-call submission process and Trevor H. Smith was invited to be writer-in-residence for the duration. A team of volunteers were recruited to act as Live Guides at public events and received specialist training in arts engagement.
The programme attracted over 100,000 visitors over its six-month duration and the projects engaged with over 400 participants. It demonstrated the use of the Bearpit space for a range of participatory and sculptural artworks and contributed to changing the perception of it from a once feared thoroughfare, to a lively, cultural and social destination.
Header image: Phillip Cheater, Pavillion. Photo (c) Roser Diaz