About Arts of Place

OED: place, noun.1

5.a. A particular part or region of space; a physical locality, a locale; a spot, a location. Also: a region or part of the earth’s surface.

Call to mind a few square metres of ground. What’s there? Who’s there? What makes it the way it is? Hold it up in a test-tube, this portion of our world: study its properties and transformative capacities, consider what is shaping your response. It’s easy to assume that if we looked together we would all see the same place there in front of us, but we would notice different things. A geologist might perceive underlying structures invisible to others, a botanist might see a tiny weed and visualise the map of that plant’s habitats. Readers of many kinds may associate the place with a particular book’s images and atmosphere and tones of voice.

Based in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham, Arts of Place is led by Alexandra Harris and Jessica Fay. We’re interested in how places are imagined and represented; why ‘sense of place’ matters to individuals and communities; how responsiveness to a particular patch of ground, or a view, or a building, or the route of a journey can open up powerful ideas that connect people across time and across the world.

The study of British art and literature is at the heart of our research, but we’re keen to hear from individuals and institutions working with many other aspects of place. This might include: heritage professionals, landscape historians, local archivists, archaeologists, geologists, urban and rural planners, architects, writers, painters, musicians, farmers, naturalists. Send us a line about your interests and expertise at artsofplace@contacts.bham.ac.uk and we’ll welcome your input.

Frederick Calvert, South-West Prospect of Birmingham, 1829 (Birmingham Museums Trust)

Please do join our mailing list if you’d like to hear from us. Everyone is very welcome. We’ll be sending out news of the project as it develops, opportunities for involvement and collaboration as they arise, and notices we think may interest you, for example about exhibitions, publications, and events.