Ian Wilson

How do you approach making a proposal?

I always read the information carefully as every Council wants or places different emphases on different things. Sometimes they are simply looking for an imaginative proposal responding to some general outline; other times they want a very specific response to a detailed plan of work. Then I try and get to know the area a bit, usually by travelling there and getting someone local to show me around. Finally, I attempt to construct a proposal which will definitely cover all the necessary bases while at the same time allowing me to engage in a meaningful artistic process.

What are the elements do you consider important - e.g. developing ideas, the relationship between the commission and your own practice, connecting or communicating with an audience(s).

Of primary importance is the notion that a public art work must engage with the community in which it will be placed/performed. Therefore the proposal must describe how that engagement will come about and how it will inform the resulting work. Once that is in place then the artist will ideally find a way to further his or her own practice within the parameters of the public art model. Only rarely is an artist given carte blanche, so most of the time there is a trade-off between the ideal artistic environment and the requirements of the commission, but usually a good balance can be achieved if one is willing to be flexible and imaginative and, importantly, to get involved with residents to some degree.

How do you best represent your work when making a proposal?

I concentrate on that area of my work which is most relevant to the requirements of the commission, describing previous similar projects I have been involved in and including examples of those works with the proposal and also one or two other examples which might help clarify what I am proposing to create.


Are there general comments you would like to make about artists' briefs for public art projects?

Mainly that in my experience every brief is different and there is a need to tailor any proposal carefully to meet the demands of both the County Council and the area in which it wants to situate the commission. There will doubtless be a number of similarities between County Councils in terms of public art requirements and the geographical and sociological contours of their respective areas, but there are likely to be just as many differences.

What do you feel are the scope, opportunities and barriers to creating new music within a public art context?

I think that, as more and more Councils begin to broaden their public art objectives to encompass music and other art forms than just visual art, there will be increasingly more opportunities for composers to engage with the area.

Scope can be a matter of inventiveness, but as long as there is a public element 'and of course, there always will be' then the need to engage with communities will probably preclude a more extreme approach to composition. These projects are not necessarily the place to experiment with one's most radical ideas; however, that does not mean that one cannot be adventurous, for I believe that some councils at least want the artists they engage to have the opportunity to further their own practices, and so it all comes back to balancing desires and requirements.

Ian Wilson is a composer based in Cork.  He has written nearly 150 pieces of music, including chamber operas, concertos, orchestral works, works for multi-media and for public art commissions. 




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Nazareth Housing Association provides independent living houses for individuals and couples who are 65 and over and on the Sligo County Council housing list.  Nazareth Village is comprised of 48 houses in a garden setting.  The Village was financed as a public-private partnership between Nazareth Housing Association and Sligo County Council with funding from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.  

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