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Trafalgar Square is one of the most celebrated tourist attractions in London and the RSA has its own involvement with the visual history of the Square.

Guest blogger Ann-Kristin Glenster FRSA – coordinator of the Fellows Artist’s Network – reports back from the recent Fourth Plinth tour and debate which was hosted by the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and organised by the Fellows Artist's Network and RSA London region. 

Trafalgar Square is one of the most celebrated tourist attractions in London and the RSA has its own involvement with the visual history of the Square.  The Fourth Plinth project grew out of the RSA in the 1990s, the plinth has subsequently hosted some of the world’s best contemporary art.  In light of this connection a group of Fellows visited the recent ICA exhibition which encompassed the development and controversies of the Fourth Plinth programme.

We followed the visit with a lively debate helped along by some insightful words from the guest speakers, Kirsten Dunne (Greater London Authority) and Jocelyn Cunningham (Arts and Society), we then launched into group discussions on the merits of the artworks on the plinth, and whether or not they were appropriate in such a prominent public space as London’s Trafalgar Square.

Jocelyn spoke of the RSA’s Arts and Social Change programme in Peterborough, and how at a time when city council's feel they have no choice but to cut the arts altogether (as in Newcastle) or sell off work (as in the recent case of the Henry Moore in Newham),it is urgent for those of us who care about this to consider new ways of art having a living value where we live.  There is more on this on the RSA’s website.

It is urgent for those of us who care about this to consider new ways of art having a living value where we live

Surprisingly, as I summarised the deliberations, I found that we did not pursue the many controversies that have sprung from the Plinth Programme.  Instead, there was feeling that artworks that were banal had no place on the plinth. Even more revealing was the general sentiment that the public, not experts, should choose the artworks, yet the individual participants were not prepared to impose their personal taste on the rest of the room. We were not quite ready to claim personal ownership of our public art!

After a couple of short hours, we trickled out into the cold January morning. Yet somehow the sky did not seem quite as grey as we generally agreed that we had had a great wake up session with “friendly”, “thought-provoking” and “inspiring” debate. Exactly the sort of ideas exchange the Fellowship is meant to stimulate, see the storify for a summary of the discussions.

And what’s next on the plinth? A 14 foot blue cock!

FRSA London Region Development Plan: read, review, contribute

This event was co-organised by the RSA London region and they need your help to realise their ambitions, to refine and deliver a programme of Fellow-led activities in London. Download the plan here and share your views via their online discussion here.

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