WIT Press

Make Art Not War: Defence Sites Find New Life As Centres Of Creativity


Free (open access)





Page Range

113 - 123




303 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


C. Clark


“And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares….” Defence sites once dedicated to national security are being transformed by artistic activity, via rededication of whole sites, conversion of individual military buildings, the construction of new galleries in former defence enclaves, temporary installations, festivals and arts events. Their transformation may or may not make reference to their military former roles and symbolic values; new enthusiasts for their history sometimes stimulate additional legislative protection for their historic value. The catalysts for these radical transformations are individual artists, sponsors or local interest groups – and sometimes the owners, the state. Barracks may become sites for reconciliation. Initiated by artists, a key event in the history of American art took place in a New York Armoury. Cultural facilities may leaven otherwise commercial redevelopments, or co-exist with continuing military functions. The Biennales of Art and Architecture in Venice Arsenale are perhaps the grandest exemplars of the regenerative powers of art. Elsewhere, ropewalks and naval prisons become cells for practising music; workshops and chapels become concert halls; barracks are reoccupied as art schools and universities; films are made in these specialist locations; storage buildings, workshops and armouries are transformed into art galleries Art – in its many forms – reanimates and regenerates many military sites whose primary purpose has ceased. It contributes creatively to the search to find sustainable new uses for these very special sites.


artists, art galleries, film, music, armouries, roperies, transformation