There’s plenty of art to see in South Yorkshire but not all is obvious and some can be a little off the beaten track. We’ve already covered the street art of the region and some of the sculpture. Just those two posts alone reveal a treasure trove of art to see in the area, but what else can there be?
For this post we take a look at some of the quirkiest most unusual art installations in South Yorkshire. From regenerated flats in Sheffield, a painted playground in Doncaster to an iron henge in Rotherham. In Barnsley, faces carved in an old quarry in Cudworth bring a sense of mystery. Whilst in the centre of town the subverting of road signs brings a heightened awareness of disability rights.
Unusual Art in South Yorkshire
Park Hill Flats Memories in Sheffield
Overlooking the city of Sheffield since the 1960’s have been the Park Hill Flats. Dominant in their landscape they have been the home of thousands. Now the flats are Grade II listed and undergoing a major revamp. Bringing the buildings up to modern standards and transforming the space and landscape around them. As a location the flats are worth seeing just as they are. That and the fact that from them one of the best views of the city of Sheffield can be seen. Within the area of the Park Hill Flats are some of the more unusual art installations to be found across South Yorkshire. Portraits which peek out from the old blocks are joined with hidden away street art remnants from Kid Acne. A memory project meanwhile called ‘We Were Never Derelict’ reminds us of the areas history. The flats even have a new exhibition area called S1 Artspace.
Park Hill Portraits
Art wise there are a number of options. The most impactful being the faces of Park Hill, portraits of former residents painted by artist Gary Hindley in 2009. Since that particular installation the space has been on a journey of transformation. Those portraits however speak to a different time and remember the lives of real people for whom the flats would have been home. The portraits can still be seen looking out of the fenced off block around Rhodes Street and Duke Street.
We Were Never Derelict
The regeneration of the Beton House area of the Park Hill Flats has resulted in a memory project called ‘We Were Never Derelict’. Incorporating stories from former residents and people who lived in the area, these stories have been placed on slabs of stone in the gardens fronting the block. Like many flats built in the brutalist design in the 60’s, over the years they gained a reputation for unrulyness. That isn’t the real story of life there though and so the project seeks to reclaim it’s history and to retell the real stories.
The Stone Faces of Cudworth
A very unusual South Yorkshire art installation can be found deep in the forest at Storrs Mill Wood. A circular walk from the village of Cudworth, the stone faces are carved into an old quarry face. Rock from the area was removed many years ago to build the infrastructure of the area. Most notably these were the old railway lines that were carved out of the landscape. Though a little further on from the stone faces lay the remnants of the old Storr Mill itself. A 12th century remnant it has long been buried with time but it’s stone also may well have been hewed from the same area.
The stone faces of Cudworth are the work of Melvin Dickinson and have been added to by Billy Johnson. A former mine worker Dickinson once worked at the Barnsley Main Colliery. After leaving he laid data cables and then started to try his hand at stone carving. Completely self taught he initially made stone troughs before moving on to the carving of other items. Eventually Dickinson found his way to the quarry though isn’t sure how many he’s created. Telling the Barnsley Chronicle “I wouldn’t like to think how many I’d done. I’ve never touched natural stones, but where it’s been cut for the old train lines I don’t see the problem”.
Static Playground in Doncaster
An unassuming playground on Baxter Avenue in Doncaster has had a makeover from some of the UK’s top street artists.Static are a duo based in London who are known particularly for their Wood Street Walls project. Originally though the pair, Craig Evans and Tom Jackson, are from Scarborough so there’s a local link. The mural as a result is a good Yorkshire team effort. Bright and colourful the piece has already transformed the space. Not only because of the wall mural but because the playground itself has had such an engaging paint job. The difference to the area is plain to see and here is an example of how street art can be used to breath new life into a space. This is an example of an unusual art installation in South Yorkshire which is also a great example of urban redesign.
The project itself has been a partnership with Doncaster Creates and Art of Protest (AOP) Projects. The idea was not only to re-imagine the space through the use of street art. It was also about the use of re-wilding techniques and sustainable oak structures to bring some literal life back into the area. For many locals the park prior to the revamp had been a no go area. A hang out for drunks and drug dealers who had severed the connection of the space from the local community. Now it’s bright and cheery paint job is an experiment in social design and how a just a little bit of care can go a long way.
The Way Ahead Road Signs in Barnsley
Against the back wall of Mandela Gardens and positioned in the shadow of the Civic Centre are a series of road signs. Peculiar at first a closer inspection reveals that this is an art installation from Caroline Cardus. An artist and an activist her work speaks to her lived experience of disability and explores this often from a feminist perspective. Called ‘The Way Ahead’ it is essentially subverted signage. Taking familiar imagery that we come across every day and transforming it’s meaning.
The project itself directly explores the experiences and barriers that disabled people in South Yorkshire face both at home and at work. Creating the work Caroline Cardus worked with a number of local disability support groups to help generate the piece. Partnering with Barnsley Civic it also has it’s place as part of a wider national campaign. With the umbrella title of ‘Here and Now‘ the aim is to connect 40 art centres across the country through work which celebrates local culture and community.
Steel Henge in Rotherham
It’s just not what you expect to see. Hidden away along a path on Centenary Riverside between Rotherham and Sheffield is a henge made of iron. Set within the shadow of a factory in the distance this was all once industrial land. No longer useful for manufacturing due to it’s propensity to flood and it’s new role as a flood plain. The change in scope has led to wildflower meadows and walks in this reclaimed bit of nature. Standing within it the henge channels evocative thoughts of it’s more famous (if rather distant) cousin, Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
The unusual art installation in South Yorkshire is made entirely of found materials from the site’s industrial past. Iron ingots have been reclaimed and positioned. The central pillar is surrounded by a circle of smaller yet no less significant iron pieces. Created in 2010 the site on which it sits on the site of the former Templeborough steel works. Intriguingly the area of Templeborough itself takes it’s name from the roman fort which once stood nearby. No trace of that is left however except in the Clifton Park Museum.
This article on unusual art installations in South Yorkshire was written as part of a paid partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire for their ‘South Yorkshire Stories‘. For other Inspiring City articles you might like, check out…