It’s Proper Art: how Leeds became our gallery

You know those short descriptions which sit next to pictures in an art gallery? We wrote them for buildings across Leeds.

From November 29th to January 6th, we staged a bold street art project with LeedsBID which transformed the city into a gallery by bringing inspirational stories to everyday places.

We installed faux art gallery descriptions at locations across town – from shopping centres to bars, university buildings and more. These texts implied that each building – and everyone inside them – was part of a work of art.

Let’s look back at the whos, hows and whys of It’s Proper Art, and consider how this unique project sparked inspiration and imagination across Leeds.

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Why did we do this?

Art doesn’t just exist inside an art gallery. It’s all around us – in the places where we live together, work together, feel together. Know this and you’ll be inspired wherever you are.

With stories written as faux art gallery descriptions displayed in a variety of participating businesses, It’s Proper Art implied that art is everywhere – and encouraged people to look closer to find inspirational stories in everyday places. Empowering people with this vision is part of Found Fiction’s mission.

It was great to partner up on this project with LeedsBID, whose plans, projects and activities are making a real difference to the look, feel and experience of the city centre. A catalyst for change, LeedsBID is a driving force, making new things happen in Leeds.

It’s Proper Art animated the streets of the city centre in an immersive way, helping drive footfall while changing perspectives on life and art.

WATCH THE IT’S PROPER ART PROMO VIDEO BY LEEDS TV

 

How did it work?

It’s Proper Art at Leeds City Station. Photo by Peter Adams.

While these temporary installations looked like art gallery descriptions, they were in fact fictional micro-stories themed by location.

These micro-stories were installed inside the premises of participating businesses – primarily on windows, so they could be read by people outside or, alternatively, on huge billboards, foam boards or postcards inside.

When people stumbled upon our It’s Proper Art installations while going about their journeys through the city, we invited them to share their experiences using the #itsproperart hashtag. We also encouraged them to find other It’s Proper Art installations via the digital map hosted on our website.

Who took part?

It’s Proper Art at Central Square. Photo by Peter Adams.

A total of 21 locations got involved in It’s Proper Art. These organisations had our texts installed at their premises:

  1. Majestic Leeds
  2. Central Square
  3. Leeds Central Library
  4. First Direct Arena
  5. Leeds Beckett University
  6. Leeds Grand Theatre
  7. Leeds Dock
  8. Water Lane Boathouse
  9. Leeds Bus Station
  10. Leeds Markets
  11. Northern College of Music
  12. The Leeds Library
  13. Trinity Leeds
  14. Victoria Quarter
  15. Victoria Gate
  16. Wellington Place
  17. Leeds City Station
  18. Leeds Corn Exchange
  19. Accent
  20. The Tetley
  21. Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

We also set up a team of writers to create the texts. Each writer was allocated a selection of locations to write about and briefed to touch on artist’s intent, historical context and themes raised – just as an actual art gallery description would.

The writers were Akeem Balogun, Joe Devlin, Sarah Whitehouse, Peter Adams and Steve Clarkson.

And let’s not forget the 860 people who did the It’s Proper Art trail (based on how many unique views our digital map had).

What impact did it have?

It’s Proper Art at Victoria Quarter. Photo by Peter Adams.

It’s Proper Art was all about inspiring people in everyday places. We wanted to brighten up people’s regular journeys through town – whether they were on their way to or from work, going to the shops, or heading on a night out.

While It’s Proper Art was being staged, we were able to capture three case studies which described how people came to notice particular It’s Proper Art pieces, and how they felt about them.

1. Trinity Leeds

2. Leeds City Station

3. Leeds Markets

People also shared their It’s Proper Art experiences to social media – there were 362 engagements altogether. Here’s our pick of the posts:

 

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I wish I’d had time to go looking for more of these. This was thought-provoking. #itsproperart

A post shared by Bethan Thomas (@phoebonica) on

What’s next?

It’s Proper Art was a real gem of a project. It was a pleasure working with our wonderful writing team (who produced some of the best creative writing we’ve ever read) all the businesses involved, and of course LeedsBID. Thanks also to Carma at Playground Design, who installed the majority of the texts.

We would definitely like to run It’s Proper Art again. We’re open to ideas about how we could evolve the project, perhaps in terms of theme or location.

If you have any feedback on the project, or want to talk to us about a future collaboration, please say hello@foundfiction.org