The teapot at Modern Art Oxford. © Modern Art Oxford
It’s at this festive time of year that lights begin to twinkle on the exteriors of many households in the UK as giant illuminated Santas compete with eye-catching snowmen, penguins, elves and an array of festive fairy light formations.
Now an art gallery in Oxford is engaging with this ever-growing national phenomenon by giving the residents of the city's Rose Hill estate the opportunity to work with artists on special light displays for their houses this Christmas.
The project, called Street Lights, is due to be ‘switched on’ on December 15 2007 and is the second in the Art in Rose Hill programme, initiated by Modern Art Oxford with funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Two artists, Katy Beinart and Jo Huyg, have been working with Rose Hill families on the unique light installations by finding out about their interests and hobbies, taking photographs and then creating designs. The designs are then being transferred onto frames by a technician from Modern Art Oxford.
“It’s been brilliant – people have responded very enthusiastically,” explained Katy Beinart. “It’s also been very interesting to work with people who perhaps haven’t any real connection with the art gallery or even with modern art and to see how they have engaged with the project.”
“It’s important to realise that audiences need to know about art and need to feel engaged with it as well. Art can do many different things and a project like this can make art available and accessible to everyone,” added Katy, who has previously worked on community and public art projects on the Rose Hill estate.
December 15 will see Rose Hill illuminated by the artistic creations.
The resulting displays play on the festive theme of Christmas lights whilst expressing a story or unknown fact about the families.
Amongst the creations are a giant illuminated country and western style guitar; a doll’s face; a break-dancer; a dolphin and a red kite - the latter is a bird often seen over the area and was suggested by a keen birdwatcher.
Rose Hill Primary School and the Youth Club at Rose Hill Community Centre are also taking part and the two artists have received several ideas for their designs – mostly to do with music but some with animal themes.
Two special evenings will be held to celebrate the lighting up of the displays. The first, taking place at Modern Art Oxford on Friday December 7, will be part of the Oxfordshire-wide White Night celebrations, marking the end of the county’s millennium. The evening will see the first of the lights, a giant teapot on the gallery’s roof, switched on.
On Saturday December 15, members of the public are invited to join the artists and participants in Rose Hill for a special walking tour of the lights.
See Katy Beinart's Parallel Worlds website to find out more about the outlying areas of Oxford and the art projects that seek to uncover them.