Survey by Qualaroo

Primary/Bristol Overview

Bristol City Council’s Primary/Bristol Programme is designed to include artists in the development of primary schools in the city with artists both involved in the design of these important educational spaces and contributing works specially made for their communities. Framed within the parameters of Bristol City Council’s innovative public art strategy, Primary/Bristol is the most extensive programme of commissioning contemporary art for school environments in the UK.

Bristol City Council has been developing a series of new schools across the City since the early 2000’s, first as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF); a government initiative established to rebuild or renew every secondary school in England over a 10-15 year period and more recently as part of Primary/Bristol which focuses on the renewal of primary schools.

Both the BSF and Primary/Bristol programmes are implemented in Bristol through the LEP (Local Educational Partnership), a partnership arrangement between Bristol City Council, and Skanska who won the contracts in Bristol to develop and build the first and second waves of BSF schools and the Primary/Bristol programme.

Arnolfini have been appointed commissioning partner for the Primary/Bristol programme, with Foreground Projects in Frome, with both organisations delivering a separate but complimentary programme of commissions for a wide range of primary schools across Bristol. Further commissions are also currently under development with partners Spike Island and Willis Newson.

Through a programme of commissions made by leading contemporary artists including Roger Hiorns, Heather & Ivan Morison, Olivia Plender, Assemble, and many others, the programme is designed to explore how commissioning contemporary art for primary school environments affects the learning ecology and social environment of schools and in turn help set the sector agenda for commissioning for young audiences and school environments.

Primary/Bristol not only offers the opportunity to commission a series of innovative artworks for schools that engage directly with children and their learning environments, but also to contribute to the dialogue about re-defining the idea of public art as art made for specific people beyond the gallery, rather than simply as artwork that enhances the built environment and public realm.

The programme will bring Arnolfini and Foreground’s unique curatorial approach to commissioning in the social, as well as physical structures of communities directly into these key Bristol contexts. The commissions will be accompanied by events, learning and participation that will see the commissions shared beyond the schools with new and established audiences in Bristol as the programme develops.

Primary/Bristol is funded by Bristol City Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and the DFE (EFA), in line with Bristol City Councils Public Art Policy.

Artist Selection

Artists are selected by Arnolfini and Foreground in consultation with individual Primary Schools, the scheme architect / design team, and Bristol City Council. The selected artists are chosen to represent a breath of contemporary arts practice, in line with a curatorial rationale, to give opportunities to local artists, as well as bringing the work of national and international artists to Bristol. Artists range from experienced practitioners in the field of public art to visual artists who are more familiar working in gallery environments. 



Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading independent, contemporary arts organizations, and is the flagship art centre for the South West of England with 450,000 visitors annually. Since its foundation in 1961, Arnolfini has built an international reputation for commissioning and presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, always with a strong emphasis upon audience engagement. Working alongside the commissioned artists and the schools, Arnolfini’s Learning and Participation team support and contextualise the programme through discourse, practical activities that explore ideas, methods and processes and respond to the multiple ways in which people interpret contemporary artwork. These sessions are hosted at Arnolfini and on site at the schools, to build long term relationships that extend beyond the life of the commission. Previous major solo exhibitions at Arnolfini have included: Marcel Broodthaers, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Liam Gillick and Cosima von Bonin amongst many others.



Based in Frome, Somerset, Foreground brings new art to new audiences across the South West of England. We deliver an ambitious programme that spans commissioning new temporary and permanent artworks in the diverse social and physical structures of communities, consultancy and development projects that explore the connectivity between the critical, social and economical aspects of contemporary art. Recent temporary projects have included Instructions for an Ordinary Utopia featuring Simon and Tom Bloor, Peter Liversidge and Ruth Proctor (2014); Brian Griffiths, The Kidd (2012); Notes From Nowhere featuring Adam Chodzko, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Claire Fontaine, Douglas Gordon, INVENTORY, Ruth Proctor, Micah Purnell and Mike Rickets (2012). Recent and forthcoming permanent commissions include Jim Isermann, Southmead Hospital Pathology Building (2015); Tue Greenfort, The Feeder Canal Sand Martin Colony (2012); and Graham Fagen, For St Agnes (2010).