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Britain’s First Floating Observatory Opens

A unique outlet where art fans can observe artists at work has recently been launched in Winchester.

The Observatory is the newest project from SPUD, a consultancy dedicated to arts and education in the UK. The group was responsible for producing Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg, which went on to win awards. This latest endeavour was supported by a £96,500 grant from the Grants for the arts scheme made available through Arts Council England's National Lottery.

After going through over 100 applications, the organisation selected six artists from the UK and abroad to spent two months each over the next 12 months working at The Observatory. The building has been specially constructed with a rotating mechanism that makes it appear to float in mid-air.

The public will be able to watch how each artist translates their thoughts and inspirations, whether it be by producing a painting, shaping a sculpture, or writing a manuscript for a novel.

There are two structures in The Observatory: The Study and the Workshop. Both can frame the landscape and beyond, making it more natural for the artist and audiences to interact by diminishing the boundaries between private and public spaces.

The Observatory can be oriented to take optimum advantage of daylight and views or act as a shelter from inclement weather. The Study is a private place for the resident artist to reflect and work while The Workshop makes it easy to interact with the public.

Phil Smith of SPUD, called the opening of The Observatory a fantastic start to 2015. He expressed confidence that the project will be well-received by the public and that the resident artists will produce engaging works that portray The Observatory and its locations. In the process, the public can see them work and get new perspectives on familiar places.

Mr Smith said that art is something that shouldn’t be hidden from the public eye, and hopes that The Observatory will stimulate art lovers of all ages to visit more exhibitions and shows and be inspired by the world around them.

The Observatory will spend the next six months in South Downs National Park at the Science Centre. Artist Simon Ryder, filmmaker and visual artist Sean Harris, and Isabella Martin, whose artistic ability covers several disciplines, will interact with the public as they work. In July the structure will move to New Forest Nation Park, where Katie Surridge, a structural installations designer, collage artist Jilly Morris, and artist Alice Angus will take up residence.

The Observatory will be accompanied by an in-depth engagement and learning programme, which will include community and school workshops and outreach work aimed at communities, universities, and special interest groups.

Led by Phil Smith and Mark Drury, Space, Place-making and Urban Design (SPUD) is based in the New Forest. The organisation is a committed advocate of the arts and focuses on training, education, consultation, and strategy.

SPUD has a declared commitment to increasing engagement for all people in understanding and influencing the quality and nature of where they live.

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