Case Study: Creative Engagement and Active Travel with Art Walk Projects’ ‘Footprint’
'Footprint' is a project led by Art Walk Projects in East Edinburgh and Musselburgh
Art Walk Projects produces and curates projects working with artists, local communities and other organisations to create engaging, perceptive, research-driven, and accessible art projects in response to place and community, drawing upon the local environment of a specific site or context. Funding is received on a project-by-project basis from a variety of sources. They nurture the work of emergent and professional artists providing them with a supportive environment to develop work, encouraging innovation and excellence, developing projects that have participation at their core, often working with hard to reach audiences, engaging communities who may have little contact with the arts.
Their 'Footprint' project, taking place over 2019, combines artistic methods and active travel for creative community engagement. Rosy Naylor, founder and producer for the organisation, tells us more in this developing case study.
Art Walk Projects started out initially as a pilot project in 2015 producing the annual Art Walk Porty festival, run by local volunteers, bringing together viewers, residents, visitors and artists, celebrating the public space and creative community of Portobello, Edinburgh’s seaside. Since then the project has grown into an ever-increasing series of small projects run year-round taking place in and around Edinburgh. They operate as a Community Interest Company and are run by a small number of committed volunteers.
What is ‘Footprint’?
‘FOOTPRINT’ is a walking and cycling map + guide planned for East Edinburgh (Portobello, Leith) & Musselburgh with artist-led routes that intersect the urban with nature through lesser used habitats, encouraging everyday physical activity as a way to improve well being.
Developed through a series of public drop-in sessions, artist commissions, and iterative testing over 2019, a map and guide of the generated walking and cycling routes will be published at the end of the year.
The project is funded by the Paths for All ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’ fund, and the ScotRail Foundation, managed by Foundation Scotland.
What Does The Project Seek to Achieve?
Involving the Local Community
Participation is central to many of Art Walk Projects’ work, with audiences encouraged to engage with the artists works through a process of learning, informing and participation. In this project, those living in the geographic area (Leith, Portobello or Musselburgh) are invited to directly engage with the creation of the work.
A number of public drop-in sessions have been organised inviting participants to take part in trialling some of the routes and to provide input into the areas to be mapped.
- Sat 27th April, 10-4, Custom House Leith
- Sat 4th May, 10-4, Leith Market Dock Place
- Sat 11th May, 11-2, Musselburgh Library
- Sat 25th May, 12-3, Portobello Prom, by Swim Centre
Recruitment for the project is specifically aimed at those people interested in increasing their regular daily activity, to encourage those to get out and about who may not often do so, and to find new routes to be explored locally, as well as to meet with others in a friendly informative way.
Reaching out to local residents through a variety of online mediums (including the Art Walk Project website, and our Twitter and Instagram pages), we are collecting information on current walking or cycling habits, how often people walk or cycle locally, and which places should be included in the mapped areas for each neighbourhood. The information we collect will go to inform the artists walks and cycles we develop as well as the map, embedding cultural knowledge across the new work.
Creating Opportunities for Emerging Artists
The development of artist-initiative walking and cycling maps for the different areas is a central component of the project. A number of paid commissions (each valued around £1000) were advertised via an open call, with selected artists expected to participate in community engagement sessions, develop a route in one of the areas, and lead a ‘led journey’ as part of the Art Walk Projects festival in September 2019.
With a history of working with emerging artists, we were particularly recruiting for artists whose practice involves walking, mapping, journeying through lost urban landscape, or involving the study of the living urban environment.
Take a look at the commissions advertised (until 1st May 2019).
Well-being through Walking and Cycling
‘Footprint’ ultimately seeks to get more people walking and cycling around the areas of Leith, Portobello and Musselburgh. The physical and mental health benefits to walking are well known, and are a primary focus of the project:
- Physical health benefits of increased activity are well known, including being a preventative factor for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. For older people, it can also reduce the instances of falls and help manage pain.
- Mental health benefits of walking are typically increased in areas of greenspace (or nature, such as the seaside!) and can increase self-esteems and alleviate low mood, anxiety and symptoms of depression.
- Social health benefits are also central to the Footprint project, increasing engagement and connections between local community members, to reduce loneliness and disconnection.
More information about the benefits of walking can also be found on the website of one of the project’s main partners: Scottish walking charity Paths for All.
Low-Carbon Active Travel
Of course, with travel undertaken by foot or pedal power also comes a reduction in transport via fossil fuels! By engaging people in the local community with more interesting, engaging and fun ways to travel around their areas, we hope to reduce short-journey car use, which in turn reduces air pollution and traffic, and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced from car fumes.
The map and guide produced by the project will enable a wider pool of residents and visitors to the areas to travel in a more sustainable way, appreciating and connecting with their surrounds in a meaningful way. Copies will be available free from a number of outlets, such as local cafes, cultural places, libraries, health centres, and other community centres.
Find Out the Latest on the Project
Art Walk Projects’ ‘Footprint’ is a 6 month project, running from Spring 2019 – Autumn 2019, with events talking place throughout, walks tested during our annual festival in September, and final maps produced in December 2019. Regular project updates will be available through the Art Walk Projects website.
Social media hashtags for the project can also be used to connect with others participating in ‘Footprint’ or similar initiatives: #walkablecities #whatsonyourdoorstep #mappingneighbourhoods #livelocal
Art Walk Projects are a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a networked community of practice for Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.
All images are from Art Walk Projects. Find more on their Instagram page.