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The University of Southampton

City Portraits: New public artwork celebrates the citizens of Southampton

Published: 14 July 2010
Image of portraits

A major new temporary public artwork installed around Southampton’s Guildhall Square, at the heart of the City’s new Cultural Quarter, is being launched on Friday 16 July.

City Portraits, by Southampton-based artist and photographer Laura Hensser, in association with the John Hansard Gallery and Dr Paul Sweetman, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Southampton, features 20 larger than life-sized photographic banner images of Southampton residents. These works celebrate their lives and represent the diversity of the City's inhabitants. Laura Hensser comments: “As a high-visibility, high-quality, collaborative art-installation and research project, City Portraits celebrates Southampton’s residents, whilst looking forward to its future as a developing city of culture.”

Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Heritage says: “I am very excited about this unique exhibition spreading arts and culture around the streets of Southampton. It is the first exhibition of its kind in the city, appropriately placed in the exciting emerging Cultural Quarter. It is a great city project about local residents for local residents.”

The artwork is accompanied by a research project by Dr Sweetman, focusing on participants’ experiences of the project and how they feel about having taken part.

Dr Sweetman comments: “My research is informed by the idea that it can be positive for people to be focused on, pictured and represented in ways that they would not normally experience. I have been involved with the project from the beginning, and will be conducting focus groups with participants after the artwork is taken down, looking at people's experiences of taking part, and asking whether they feel it has affected how they see themselves and their relationship with the City as a whole. This material will then form the basis for a potential book with Laura Hensser and a public lecture at the Gallery, as well as publications in academic journals and elsewhere.”

The City Portraits banners will be in place until October 2010.
Some stars of the City Portraits

City Portraits is part of the Creative Campus Initiative (CCI), a consortium of 13 higher education institutions in the South-East, including the University of Southampton, which is delivering an exciting programme of cultural events and artworks in support of the Cultural Olympiad. The CCI as a whole is recognised by the London 2012 Inspire programme.

Val Drayton, Special Projects Manager at the John Hansard Gallery, adds: “The Gallery is very proud to be associated with CCI. We support its mission to open up the cultural resources of South-East campuses and provide wider access to world leading, practice-based research in the creative and performing arts. City Portraits embodies the wider aims of the Cultural Olympiad in encouraging and welcoming involvement from the community and helping to showcase excellence in the arts.”

The City Portraits banners will be in place until October 2010.

Notes for editors

  • Laura Hensser is a Southampton-based photographer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham with a BA in Photography in 2008. She has been the recipient of the MI 2 (Prime Ministers Initiative Fund) to make work at the NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmadabad, India and was recently awarded the ARC Award at the Aspex Gallery to make a new piece of work using sculpture. Laura has exhibited internationally and in the UK and has spent time in Iceland on the Nes artist residency program.
  • The Creative Campus Initiative is a consortium of thirteen higher education institutions in the South East delivering a dynamic programme of cultural events and artworks in response to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

    Historical, cultural and social issues raised by the Games will be addressed by artists, students and academics alongside new learning materials and workshops with schools and local communities.

    The CCI is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England and is an initiative of the HE Cultural Forum. For further information about the CCI, please visit
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