The municipality of Moss has for the past three years been recognized as the best town for culture in the region of Østfold. For a medium-sized town of 32.500 inhabitants, there are broad and extensive cultural offerings that one would normally find in a larger city. With its close proximity to Oslo, Moss is an attractive place to live for artists and professionals in creative industries, and in recent years has seen its cultural life flourish.
Ever since the Brandstrup brothers established Gallery F15 in 1966, with a distinctive Nordic profile, Moss has occupied a strong position in the field of art, nationally and internationally. Later developments such as Momentum Biennial for Contemporary Art, NonStop International Theatre Festival, and Møllebyen Literature Festival have enhanced this international profile. Moss is also home to the county gallery in Østfold, Punkt Ø.
During the past several years the municipality of Moss has enjoyed an exciting cooperation with Østfold kulturutvikling v/ Scenekunst Østfold and curator James Moore. Through the IN SITU network, and in cooperation with NonStop festival, Østfold kulturutvikling has produced wandering theatre adventures with G. Bistaki in 2014 and 2015, and artistic urban walks with Kitt Johnson’s Mellemrum Encounter in 2016.
As City Planner it has been fascinating to see how art can find its expression in urban development and the substantial processes of transformation in which Moss currently finds itself. Moss has long been known as an important town for sculpture. Yet through the aforementioned projects, artists have used the public realm and urban environments in an entirely new manner. As a landscape architect and urban planner I have experience this as enriching and challenging with regard to how we observe and understand our town. I believe there are significant opportunities to develop this artistic expression in public space and to integrate it more consequently in our urban development.
Based upon past years’ experience from IN SITU Focus, it is with suspense and anticipation that we accepted the invitation to “place the town at the disposal” of the PICTURE Budapest – Østfold project, with artists from Norway and Hungary. I have had the pleasure of participating in symposia at House of Foundation in Moss and House of Literature in Fredrikstad. The combination of theoretical presentations about place making, practical examples, and open discussions between urbanists and artists were challenging and have provided new impulses in my daily work as city planner. The on site excursions at Verket in Moss and Værste in Fredrikstad have been meaningful, and have contributed to concretise a difficult professional field in the interface between art and urban planning.
The presentations of the participating artists’ methods, together with concrete project ideas in Moss, have demonstrated that they invested themselves in the town’s identity and character, as well as the developmental challenges and possibilities. We hope to pursue a couple of these ideas in the immediate future in our city planning. It has been especially interesting that this project has occurred at a time when we are in the middle of important political decision-making processes, and where development is taking place on a large scale.
It is my hope as City Planner that we will manage to involve artists in our urban planning and development, and to integrate artists more strongly in the public realm in Moss in the future.