Bristol City Council is currently in the process of completing a number of new schools in the City under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Included in this series is St Mary Redcliffe and Temple Secondary School, an historic Church of England School (Bristol Diocese) located in the centre of Bristol.
As part of the development Bristol City Council commissioned Arnolfini Contemporary Arts Centre to develop a new public art work for the school, working closely with an appointed artist, the school development team comprising the school head, governors, staff, pupils, contractors, architects and other key stakeholders.
The artist selected for the commission was Bristol based artist Martin Parr. Parr who began work in early 2010 has been working closely with Arnolfini and the school team. The commission has focused on a transitional year in the life of the school. As Parr has stated: “It was very exciting to document the school during such an important year – one in which it moved into the new building (funded as part of the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future initiative). Clearly, the students responded well to this vote of confidence in the school, the staff and the pupils. I feel very proud that such a positive and well run establishment can be part of the state education system run by Bristol City Council and I hope my photos do it justice by showing the momentum and heart of the school as well as describing this important year of change.”
The commission for the school features a number of permanent and temporary works. This includes a large frieze of images in the schools 4 storey atrium, selected from the artists archive developed over the last 12-18 months, together with a giant photo work for the schools exterior ‘avenue’ space, (a partially covered space located between the new and old school buildings). A digital screen near the schools entrance also show the full suite of images shot during the artists’ commission period, together with a newspaper; published for every child and launched in tandem with Arnolfini’s interaction team in December 2011.
Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surrey (1952). Parr studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic (1970 to 1973). To support his career as a freelance photographer, he took on various teaching assignments between 1975 and the early 1990s. At the beginning of the 1980s his work aimed to mirror the lifestyle of ordinary British people, reflecting the social decline and distress of the working class during the era of Margaret Thatcher. He earned an international reputation for his oblique approach to social documentary, and for innovative imagery. In 1994 he became a member of Magnum after much heated debate over his provocative photographic style.
In 2002 Phaidon published the monograph Martin Parr. A large retrospective of Parr’s work was initiated by the Barbican Art Gallery in London, and has since been shown in the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg.
Parr was appointed Professor of Photography in 2004 at the University of Wales, and was Guest Artistic Director for Rencontres d’Arles in the same year. In recent years, he has developed an interest in film-making, and has started to use his photography in different contexts, such as fashion and advertising.
St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School
St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School was originally founded by Queen Elizabeth I Charter in 1571, it combined with Temple School founded in 1709, coming together on the present site in the centre of Bristol in 1966. As the only Voluntary Aided Church of England School in the Bristol Diocese, it selects on criteria including church attendance.
Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading independent, contemporary arts organizations, and is the flagship art centre for the South West of England with over 350,000 visitors annually. 2011 is the year of Arnolfini’s 50th anniversary. Since its foundation in 1961, Arnolfini has built an international reputation for commissioning and presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, always with a strong emphasis upon audience engagement. Many thousands of artists and performers have been involved with Arnolfini during this time, often gaining their first opportunity before going on to long-term success, and this wealth of creativity has been appreciated and enjoyed by consistently large audiences. Much of this groundbreaking work would not have been made or shown in Bristol and the South West region without the Arnolfini. Previous major solo exhibitions at Arnolfini have included: Marcel Broodthaers, Bridget Riley, Richard Long and Liam Gillick, as well as more recently Cosima von Bonin in 2011.