Origin & The Darwin Sweet Pea Gift (2018) commissioned by Barrett’s to produce artworks for Darwin Green, a large scale urban development in Cambridge.
Can an artist’s artwork impact regeneration and its communities by drawing on the history of the site? This research is developed from the long-term preoccupation of Mackinnon-Day with regard to the impact and relevance of public art in forming communities. The underpinning research addresses arts function for social and cultural benefit, examining arts role in drawing on local histories and its purpose in urban regeneration. Origin (2020) artwork addresses art’s use and function in the planning and development of public space as well as putting the users of the space at the centre of the design process. Mackinnon-Day’s The Darwin Green Sweet Pea (2019] proposes new models of participatory art practice. A Welcome Folder illustrating the research process has already been distributed to new residents. The Darwin Green Sweet Pea, once planted throughout the area, aims to give the new development a distinct visual identity. The Darwin Green Sweet Pea project is unique in its link to Darwinian research, recreating the Darwin 1860’s sweetpea experiment. This newly propagated sweetpea now exists within the Darwin Green housing development. It aims to create an integration within shared spaces and a sense of belonging. Both Origin (designs for a permanent printed glass panel building structure) and The Darwin Green Sweet Pea has enabled a dialogue about Darwin’s research and his relevance today between numbers of different groups – The Darwin Correspondence Project, Cambridge University; NIAB, Barratts developers local history groups, Cambridge City council and Artscape management, Darwin Green residents and allotment communities. Mackinnon-Day’s research examines the relationship between art, history, and place. As a result, it has enabled a new articulation and understanding of public art’s impact upon community cohesion, via processes of participation and has therefore embraced arts role as part of civil society.