In this series of interviews I’ve been chatting with people who work at the intersect of culture and commerce in the City of London. Today I’m with Samantha Williams, who I met at the launch of PLAY project, a collaboration between the Guildhall Students, Culture Mile and Brookfield Properties. Williams, UK marketing manager for Brookfield Properties, has some interesting insights into the benefits of art and culture for business and placemaking.
Tell me about your role
I’m the art curator for London and Berlin, working on the art strategy, and how that is best defined and articulated. Marketing is the umbrella because the identity and personality of Brookfield Properties comes through the artistic activations we create, which are all integrated in our cultural activities.
What’s the purpose of Brookfield Arts?
We are redefining how people and places come together both in our buildings and in the spaces between our buildings. We are interested in partnerships with cultural organisations in the areas we are in and in that sense we are unique. We commission site-specific work [because] art has the ability to invigorate and transform the community they are in, driving tenants to want to be part of it and attracting people into the area. The ‘Brookfield Way’ has always been to provide accessible, free art for people in our community, both the commuters and workers who come into the offices and the residents and community in the local area.
Can you give a couple of examples of recent projects and their impact?
In 100 Bishopsgate, we partnered with the Craft’s Council to commission textile artist Anna Ray to make a stunning piece of work. The colourful nature of the work had a huge impact on one of the tenants, who said how inspiring they were to see on his commute into work, and Anna called it the most significant show she had ever done. For the second year running we also partnered with the Culture Mile to create PLAY: HARMONY in London Wall Place, the biggest green space in the city with 2.7 acres. We created an immersive music and art experience with four place-inspired compositions viewable through your phone or device. If you are sitting having your sandwich, you can be alone but still connected to someone else’s thoughts and creations. At first you might be watching the animation on your phone but with more attention you are listening to an up and coming composer’s ideas and music performed by a London Symphony Orchestra player. Having these connections to artists create little windows of perspective into creative worlds.
Bringing people back into the City is a hot topic right now. What part do you play?
Art has such a big role in bringing people back into the office. I would hope some of our cultural programming would be the decider to come in on a Thursday – to see the pop up exhibitions and have a drink with the artist. People are art literate, they want to see good art and, when they can, combine coming to the office with having these experiences. That’s a powerful driver.