Coventry’s former IKEA site is showcasing its new role as a centre of creativity by welcoming one of the City of Culture’s The Show Windows.
Dancing Frogs by local artist Jack Foulkes is the first art installation to take its place at the site in the heart of the city.
Dancing Frogs is part of local artist Jack Foulkes’ wider project Jack’s Frogs, which was dreamed up when he was told that the River Sherbourne in Coventry was to be uncovered.
Jack, who has Down’s Syndrome, imagined that when the river was opened up, hundreds of frogs would leap out and jump around the city. His project has grown substantially over the years through work with Coventry-based companies Imagineer Productions and Open Theatre and this specific piece depicts the frog cycle, from frogspawn and tadpole to froglet and frog, all dancing together.
The installation’s home is the city’s former IKEA building, which was closed in 2020. The site has now been reborn as Sky Blue Studios – an innovative and sustainability-first media and studio facility that will provide a central home for sustainable creativity during Coventry’s year as the City of Culture.
Jack, whose installation went into the window earlier this month, said: “I was really excited to see my Dancing Frogs in the IKEA window. I went inside the window and helped put them all together and then watched the frogs dancing from the outside. I want everyone in Coventry to walk past and stop and dance with the frogs too!”
The new installation is already proving a hit with visitors to the city centre. Abdus Samad, 21, from Coventry, first spotted it on his way to work at The Farmhouse, a restaurant in the city, and has stopped several times since to take a look.
He said: “I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I stopped and just watched for a while. It’s interesting and looks great. It’s so good to have things like this around the city.”
The project is part of The Show Windows, which is co-produced in partnership by Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry Business Improvement District (BID) and RIBA and funded by Arts Council England.
Trish Willetts, Coventry City Centre BID Director, said: “Not only is Dancing Frogs an amazing piece of art and the latest great installation as part of The Show Windows to go on display in our city, but it also marks another transformation for an iconic building in our city.
“While the departure of IKEA from Coventry wasn’t great news for the city, I’m thrilled to see the building reborn as a symbol of what a cultural and creative centre Coventry is. Sky Blue Studios provides a legacy that puts Coventry at the centre of creativity and innovation and shows that we are serious about being a cultural hub. This is just the start of a bright future for this building and the city as a whole, and we can’t wait to see how it develops.”
The Show Windows is a 12-month programme that sees shop windows across Coventry transformed by local and international artists, designers, architects and makers into portals to fantasy worlds and mindscapes through site-specific artworks framed behind the window glazing.
Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Arts at Coventry City Council, said: “Dancing Frogs is a wonderful idea that is capturing the imagination of many people.
“We have ambitious plans for the building to become an arts and culture facility of national and international standing in the city and as we work towards that goal we want to use the building as a working space for arts productions and rehearsal space.
“Dancing Frogs is an eye-catching installation and is another great example of the creative talent in the city.”
Cara Pickering, Visual Arts Programme Producer at Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “The Show Windows has been working with businesses and organisations in the city centre, showcasing the possibilities of blending art and culture into our everyday spaces. IKEA was a huge landmark in the city centre and the fact that it is being brought back to life is really exciting.
“To kick-start the activity with just one-part of Jack’s vision is just great. I am looking forward to seeing what’s next from both the building and the artist and hope that everyone can take some joy from his work.”
Discover more about The Show Windows by visiting Coventry city centre this year or by visiting Smartify where you will find out more about the windows, artists, delivery team and other cultural activity being produced in Coventry by Coventry BID.