Posted Monday 23 December 2019
A life size light sculpture polar bear symbolising the plight of the homeless and the importance of living sustainably during the festive period has been created by students from Kingston School of Art's Creative and Cultural Industries.
Named The Giving Bear, it will live on London's Mount Street Gardens until 6 January, and has been constructed from more than 3000 re-used milk bottles. It features a tap donation point which encourages passing shoppers to donate to the Hidden Network, a group of charities who work with Westminster City Council to end rough sleeping.
The sculpture was a collaboration with resource management company Veolia in partnership with New West End Company and Westminster City Council. 25 students pitched their ideas to a panel at Veolia's headquarters before they chose The Giving Bear, dreamed up by second year student Ellice Thatcher. The entire cohort then came together to make the design a reality with teams tasked to develop the various assets including the bear build, interactive elements, lighting, a story book, augmented reality, marketing, a bespoke animation and a video detailing the project.
Ellice said watching her design light up at the launch was a surreal and magical moment. "Seeing the design I drew up in my room in situ on a Mayfair street made all the hard work we put in really worth it," she said. "The Giving Bear is all about increasing awareness of living sustainably this Christmas and raising money for the homeless and people in need of shelter. The bear receives a gift of shelter rather than a materialistic item, it shows how an act of kindness can mean much more than a standard gift."
Once her pitch had been successful the real hard work began. "We worked tirelessly on the enormous bear. It was a huge group project - we had to manually cut individual strips of milk bottles, wash them out and attach them to a chicken wire frame," she explained. "Many of our projects have been digitally focused so it was nice to work on a project that was physically in front of us and developed in front of our eyes. On the installation there is an interactive tap point which you can donate three pounds, when you do this the gift lights up - it creates a lovely moment of engagement and mindfulness for the donator."
Russell Miller, Associate Professor and course director within the department of Critical Studies and Creative Industries, said the project demonstrated the multidisciplinary focus of the course portfolio and gave students valuable industry experience. "Growing your professional network while your studying is vital - our students will have worked on projects for 20-30 clients over three years, that's access to a host of people and their industry networks," he said.
"They're getting access to experiences we can't replicate with an academic brief. The students are a really diverse range of people with different skills and interests which is reflected in the creative work we produce. We're developing students who respond differently when given a brief, which is exactly what industry want, they don't want a room of 20 people with the same ideas."
Mr Miller was keen to highlight the support the team were able to call on from the technical and workshop staff at Kingston School of Art, while adding that working on live briefs provided students with opportunities to increase their skills and learn new ones. "The students learn to pitch and sell very complicated ideas in a simple way, which is a solid gold skill for people who want to work in the highly competitive creative industries. They learn to collaborate, manage conflict and start building their personal network so they have contacts and a portfolio of live briefs that demonstrate their professional endeavour."
Helder Branco, Senior Contract Manager for Veolia, said The Giving Bear stood for the positive impact that can be achieved through kindness, community spirit and recycling. "I hope the beautiful bear can capture the hearts of all of its visitors, reminding them that being mindful of the planet and all of the beings populating it is important. We will all generate more waste than usual over the festive season, so we're asking people to consider their waste consumption more closely, and to give to those in need if they can."