SfN was founded following a joint initiative by the Norwich Society and Norfolk Contemporary Art Society in 2009 to encourage new public sculpture in the city. It was registered both as a charity and as a charitable company limited by guarantee in September 2009. Our initial project was a sculpture celebrating the Norwich School of Artists, to be sited on Palace Plain (in front of the house lived in by one of the leading Norwich School of Artists, John Cotman).
In 2010 an appeal raised some £30,000 enabling us to begin the commission with a short listing which included public consultation. This resulted in the choice of a project by Mariele Neudecker, a see-through, yet reflective glass screen, decorated with images from Norwich School paintings combined with views of the Norfolk landscape.
We were mortified to learn, well into the planning cycle, of English Heritage’s rejection of the scheme as unsuitable for Palace Plain. Mariele responded with an imaginative reworking of the scheme, with the panels spread out on Palace Plain, but still reflecting the proportions of Cotman House, and combining the imagery of Norwich School paintings with Norfolk landscape.
This, although on a pavement, eccentrically needed the approval of the Highways Authority. Unfortunately our meeting with them, after much preparatory work, in February 2015 was characterised by an atmosphere of almost total negativity on the part of the Authority representatives. This was compounded later in the year when we finally received a good sized trial panel which we had commissioned from Andrew Moor, one of the top providers of specialist glass for artist and architects. He had used a new technology of firing screen printed ceramic onto the surface of the glass. The images were beautiful, and the panel non-slip (as required by the Highways Authority), but the innovative technology, never used before, was inadequate. Its grainy texture would have attracted dirt and algae very quickly and could easily be vandalised.
This marked the end of the road since we had used almost all the appeal funds and had only ben able to commission the panel through the continued generosity of the trustees. The combination of failed technology, the hostility of the Highways Authority and the lack of support for public sculpture from the City Council has led to our unanimous decision to close the charity.
While this remained our major project we initiated a number of other significant initiatives:
We hope that the aims of SfN and collaboration between the Norwich Society and NCAS will be continued in a new sub-committee to be set up by NCAS with the sole aim of promoting public art in Norwich.