The role of art in building community
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas
We’re living in a world where digital communication is undoubtedly THE way to reach homebuyers, promote your place brand and put your scheme on the map. But what happens when people arrive to check out the marketing suite? Should that experience be completely digital too, with iPads strategically placed around the room and videos playing all day long on projector screens? Or should there be an element of ‘traditional’ marketing? Is there something offline you can create that complements your digital strategy and impacts people on an emotional level?
Something that’s tangible.
That people can see, touch and interact with.
Something that lives on long after the marketing suite has done its job.
Something that integrates within communities and brings people together.
In our experience, there is. And it is… ART.
Art within placemaking
Whether it’s a mural on the marketing suite wall, wayfinding throughout the community, paintings in the show home or a long-standing legacy piece on the lawn; incorporating artwork into your placemaking strategy can be hugely effective when it comes to generating awareness, building community and leaving a legacy. Here’s why:
Reinforce your place ethos
Once you have a strong brand narrative and ethos in place (if you don’t already have one, you need one) it’s crucial that it doesn’t get diluted throughout the marketing process. Art can play a fundamental role in amplifying your brand values and vision for the place. For example, if your brand values are focused on supporting the local community, you could bring local artists in and provide them with a space to get creative and showcase their work. Or maybe your values are steeped in giving back. Then how about working with members of the community to create a legacy piece that they can take ownership of? Focusing on an art strategy early on will not only help to build awareness and community, it will also instil a sense of pride, and a place that people are proud to call home.
Sell the story
Whether your scheme has a fascinating heritage, interesting architecture or eccentric characters, art can really bring this to life and encourage people to feel part of your story. Our focus is always on creating stories that resonate with people, and getting them to feel something. We all know that a person interested in buying a home isn’t just in it for the bricks and mortar; they’re buying into a way of life. They’re buying into a feeling. And art can literally impact how people feel.
A previous study by the University of Westminster found that looking at art can improve stress, memory and empathy, as it releases dopamine in the brain (the chemical related to love). Relieving stress has always been important to our physical and mental health, but it’s even more crucial following the last year. Just being around art has a host of other benefits; various studies have also revealed that factors responsible for mental restoration can be found in natural environments and museums. Essentially, having a public art strategy can help people remember the place you’re building long after they’ve left it.
Improve wellbeing and foster community
Art can bring people together in various ways, whether it’s discussing what they think of a particular piece or actually getting involved in the process of creating artwork. In fact, encouraging residents to come together and create art is a proven way of boosting overall wellness; Arts and Minds charity conducted research on the link between art and wellness and found that 76% of people surveyed had an increase in wellbeing when creating art, and 69% felt more socially included. And we know that feeling part of a community and connected to other people is crucial – according to Psychology Today, strong social connection can lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity. With loneliness and isolation being at the top of the public health agenda (and especially critical in retirement living) this is something we think more developers need to focus on.
Amplify your brand
Public art is an authentic way to connect with a community and can provide some fantastic social sharing opportunities. If there’s some interesting artwork or sculptures to interact with, people will naturally want to share it amongst their own network resulting in user generated content across social media and word of mouth marketing.
Art in action
We’ve worked with a number of clients on placemaking projects that have an art strategy at the heart, and we’ve seen some amazing results:
This live, work and play scheme is located in the heart of Bristol’s creative community. Our client, Crest Nicholson, wanted to promote the homes here alongside the work units and with an already established artistic community in place, we knew we had to leverage it. We set up a 24-hour hackathon event and streamed it live on social, encouraging local artists to come on down and submit some artwork for a competition. We then asked the community to vote on their favourite, with the winning piece being displayed in the brochure and marketing suite. This was not only an amazing way to raise awareness of the development, it also fostered community, bringing local artists along for the journey and turning them into brand ambassadors. The campaign was a great success, with the scheme completing ahead of schedule and the client saving over £500,000 on traditional marketing spend.
Fish Island Village
Located in Hackney Wick, the new community at Fish Island Village needed to integrate with the existing one. With many locals talking about gentrification, we wanted to create a communications strategy that told the heritage story of Fish Island and involved everyone who was already living here. We activated a public art strategy in a number of ways; the hoarding was a blank canvas, so people could come along and create individual artwork while the development was built, we interviewed local creators and makers as part of the brochure and we asked homebuyers to choose their favourite artwork, which we then used to personalise the customer journey (displaying their chosen artwork on all email communication). We also worked with a local ironmonger to bring the logo to life in a legacy piece that sat in the marketing suite and generated some interesting discussions.
Located in east Cambridge, Marleigh is a development that has a unique history. Working with Marshall and our client, Hill, we uncovered the story of the place, which complemented the local art strategy, which was all about celebrating the aviation heritage of the site and the people involved in it.