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Anti-terrorist barriers become works of art

by Andy Clutton

Rob Gerrard, director at Safetyflex Barriers, with artist Emily Hett at The Wave in Coventry

Public art can come in all forms, shapes and sizes — and for two Coventry artists it has led them into the unlikely world of safety and security. Abstract artists Polly Merredew and Emily Hett have used the anti-terrorist barriers outside Coventry Market and The Wave, the city’s new indoor waterpark, as canvasses for their latest work.

The surface-mounted crash blocks are designed and manufactured by Safetyflex Barriers also based in Coventry. Polly and Emily were commissioned by Coventry City Council as part of a city-wide project to look at ways of showcasing the work of local artists in public places during and beyond its year as UK City of Culture. It is the art school graduates’ first foray into public art.

Polly said: “This is completely unusual and off the scale for me as I’ve only ever produced my work on a more conventional canvas, so to be doing a 3D public art project has been a steep learning curve, but really exciting at the same time. I took my inspiration from the architecture and decorative elements of the city centre and drew designs out of that, incorporating the bright colours of the rainbow which has become a real symbol of hope during the pandemic.”

Emily added: “This is like nothing I’ve done before and to find out that the security barriers were made in Coventry too makes it extra special. All of my work is inspired by nature and really playful in a way that it can be appreciated by people of all ages. It’s amazing really how through using colour and pattern you can turn the barriers into an artwork and give them a whole new lease of life, and, from the feedback I’ve had, it is really appreciated.”

Rob Gerrard, director of Safetyflex Barriers, said: “Our growing range of patented crash-rated products to stop vehicle attacks are innovative in the way they are designed, how they perform, and how we can transform them into attractive street furniture, so it’s interesting to see that they have evolved further to now become blank canvasses for the work of local artists. Polly and Emily have done a great job in bringing them to life in a way that we’d never really considered before, and we hope they can demonstrate to our other customers in city centres all over the UK, and globally, how our products can be fun as well as functional.”

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