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Wakefield's Sculpture Trail launches across the city centre

21 Jul 2023

Wakefield Sculpture Trail, a series of monumental new sculptures for its city centre, has now launched.

Four of the six new, site-specific works by Halima Cassell, Andy Holden, Annie Morris and Jason Wilsher-Mills have taken up their new permanent homes at key points across the city, providing an opportunity to experience and engage with world-class contemporary art in the UK’s home of sculpture. The Gathering by Halima Cassell will be installed at Wakefield Westgate Station soon and The Source by Ro Robertson will be installed at The Springs in September, marking the completion of the trail.

Organised by Wakefield Council, the city centre public sculptures programme has been made possible thanks to a £1m investment from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), administered by Arts Council England (ACE), specifically to curate outdoor contemporary sculptures that animate the city centre. Wakefield Council drew upon Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s expertise in outdoor sculpture, commissioning the organisation to support the process to select the five artists.

The new sculptures amplify the city’s extraordinary cultural heritage and resonate with both residents and visitors. Each artist has been selected to create works that have a relationship and dialogue with the city centre. The sculptures come together to make a free, outdoor public art trail creating a unique city centre sculpture experience.

Engagement Programme

The Hepworth Wakefield, in partnership with Wakefield Council, is leading on an extensive engagement programme around the launch of the public sculptures. Working closely with Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield Council, local communities, colleges and business owners, the free programme celebrates the arrival of each of the sculptures with free and publicly accessible events. These include hands-on workshops aimed at connecting people with materials and making and exploring what it means to create sculpture today, at venues across the city centre, The Hepworth Wakefield and the West Yorkshire History Centre.

“The trail will provide residents and visitors with the chance to experience world-class art, up close and personal, in the heart of the city. And not only that, but this week also kicks off the start of our free events and activities, open to all, to welcome our new sculpture trail. Each sculpture will have their own public celebration event, alongside a variety of activities, performances and workshops taking place across the city. There is something for everyone in our sculpture themed summer celebrations.” – Cllr Michelle Collins, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport

“Having grown up in Wakefield and being inspired by the work of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth – and to be able to work in my home city at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – it’s a great privilege to be a part of this project. For young people to grow up with art in their lives is life changing.” – Helen Pheby, Associate Director, Programme, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

“Over the summer, we are encouraging everyone to explore the sculptures and take part in free creative activities across the city centre. We are looking forward to working with families, local communities and visitors to Wakefield to create their own playful sculptures, make colourful birds and help us decorate the Love and Hope Boat that is touring the city centre over the summer.” – Victoria Boom, Head of Learning, The Hepworth Wakefield

Andy Holden, The Auguries (Last Calls)

Wakefield One

The first permanent public sculpture by Andy Holden (b. 1982, Bedford, UK) takes the form of a series of bronze structures that represent the songs of native birds with rapidly declining populations, including the Mistle Thrush, Skylark and Swift. Recordings of these bird songs have been translated into 3D wave forms and then cast in metal, acting as totems to remind the public of mankind’s ever-changing relationship with nature. Visitors are also able to listen to the individual bird songs via a QR code. Holden was interested in the history of Charles Waterton, who was born in Wakefield and went on to invent the bird box and also created the world’s first recognised nature reserve in Wakefield in the 1820s.

Annie Morris, Bronze Stack 9, Viridian Green

West Yorkshire History Centre

Taken from the artist’s distinctive Stack series, the 11.5-foot bronze sculpture by Annie Morris (b. 1978, London, UK) comprises a tall column of precariously arranged irregular spheres. The colour palette, including vivid blues, deep reds and vibrant greens, reflects both the busy outdoor environment of the city but also the stunning natural landscape that surrounds Yorkshire, a great source of inspiration to Morris whilst preparing for her first institutional solo show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2021. The sculpture is outside the West Yorkshire History Centre, a purpose-built archive that holds the history of the West Riding of Yorkshire from 1194, including records of births, marriages and deaths. These symbolic themes are echoed in Morris’s practice, which touches on vulnerability and strength, grief and renewal, hope, uncertainty, rebirth and creativity.

Halima Cassell, The Gathering

Wakefield Westgate Station

The hand-carved concrete sculpture The Gathering by Halima Cassell (b. 1975, Kashmir, Pakistan) will comprise five sculptural columns, each representing a figure. The work reflects the artist’s interest in Barbara Hepworth and calls to mind Hepworth’s The Family of Man sculptures whilst also combining Cassell’s distinctive geometric and architectural elements. Works from the The Family of Man series are on permanent display at both The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Cassell spent time studying Hepworth when commissioned by Wakefield Art Gallery in 2008 to create a piece to celebrate The Hepworth Wakefield being built. The commission, titled Light Strings through Zenith & Nadir, reflected on the architecture styles of the longstanding Wakefield Art Gallery and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Halima Cassell, Fan Construction

The Hepworth Wakefield Garden

Another work by Halima Cassell, Fan Construction, 2023, is situated in The Hepworth Wakefield Garden. Created in cast iron, the surface of the six-metre-high sculpture has recurring patterns inspired by the geometry and symmetry found in nature. It complements a carved relief in unglazed clay, Fan (2005), acquired by The Hepworth Wakefield in 2022, which is on display inside the gallery. For Fan Construction, Halima has combined pigments to create a warm red hue, which responds to the red brick of Rutland Mills while providing a counterpoint to the concrete of The Hepworth Wakefield.

Ro Robertson, The Source

The Springs (launches September 2023)

Ro Robertson’s (b. 1984, Sunderland, UK) The Source will take the form of a 20-metre long sculptural walkway and garden. Taking visual inspiration from the movement of water, this ambitious new work will highlight local history and environmental factors, and connect with the subject of healing. It has been developed specifically for the site of The Springs, one of the main public transport and pedestrian routes through Wakefield, which was previously the site of freshwater springs. Until 1837, the sole sources of water in the city were springs, wells and streams, and the site would have been used as a daily watering hole and place of healing. Robertson has worked in collaboration with Katy Merrington (Cultural Gardener, The Hepworth Wakefield) to develop a planting plan selection that focusses on movement, structure, and sensory elements with the aim of providing a space where people can feel encompassed by nature.

Jason Wilsher-Mills, The Amazonian Caiman God

Cathedra Precinct, Wakefield city centre

Jason Wilsher-Mills (b. 1969, Wakefield, UK) presents a new 6.5-foot bronze sculpture that in part explores his own personal connection to nearby Walton Hall, the former home of Charles Waterton, at which his parents met while his mother was working there as an auxiliary nurse. Wilsher-Mills’ sculpture depicts an Amazonian Caiman God holding a small ferry boat containing figures of his parents. The figure is wearing leg callipers as a proud depiction of disability and a nod to the artist’s own experience of debilitating chicken pox in childhood that left him partially paralysed. Visitors are able to engage further with the sculpture through augmented reality technology and QR codes, which allows them to hear a new poem by poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan, created in response to the sculpture’s themes, as well as access an online animated film.