Episode Archive

SCP E326 Summer Series: Art Giving a New Perspective to Smart Communities, with Jess Coldrey

Hi #smartcommunity friends! Welcome to the Summer Series here on the Smart Community Podcast. As you know, we’re taking a little break from new content over the Australian summer holidays, and instead we are sharing the replays of a few of our all time favourite episodes. This week we’re sharing my interview with Jess Coldrey, from way back in Episode 258, which was released in October 2021. 

In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast I have a fascinating talk with Jess Coldrey about how art can shape the future of Smart Communities. Jess is a human geographer and creative technology artist and through her work, aims to harness the under-utilised potential of infrastructure to address social and environmental needs. 

Jess tells us about her varied and interesting background, her studies in Visual Arts and Human Geography, her current work and latest venture heading to England to study humanitarian engineering, before telling us about her passion for futurism and how societies progress in a socially different way. 

Jess and I discuss how her work fits into the Smart Communities space, how she has used her creative and collaborative skills in past projects to bring in new ways of thinking and ideas, how her training has helped give a different perspective and what a Smart Community is to her. 

Jess then shares with us some of the projects she has been working on as well as some of her achievements before we discuss how art can trigger emotional responses allowing people to think differently and boldly about the future of communities, how art galleries and libraries could potentially be the hub of communities and the value that could bring. We finish our chat discussing the emerging trends of the post Covid world and the different requirements communities will need in future. 

Since we recorded this interview, Jess has been up to a lot! She was named Top 50 Women in Engineering in the UK; she did an art residency in France raising awareness of endometriosis; she obtained her MSc in England as a John Monash Scholar, focusing on drone tree planting; she exhibited a piece in the Tate Britain, which houses the UK’s national collection of art; spoke on the radio about inspiring and retaining women in engineering; created a series of 3D scanned postcards to encourage environmental volunteering and recently she’s been to India as a United Nations UNLEASH Global Talent to work in international teams prototyping technological solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals.

She’s got some exciting projects on the horizon too, including leading a drone tree planting project with AirSeed/RedCross, responding to landslides and flooding in Lismore here in Australia, and she’s doing an art residency at King’s College London Engineering, working with robotics and photography to help shape a creative identity for the new department, and understand ‘what inspires us’ as engineers to share with the world and encourage others into the profession.

We will be sure to get Jess back on the show in future for a full update about what she has been up to since we recorded this episode and how our thinking has progressed since our conversation. But in the meantime, as always we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it!

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Jess’s interesting and varied background as a creative technology artist and human geographer working in the engineering industry
  • Her studies in Visual Arts and Arts in Human Geography and her current work 
  • Her newest venture in England studying humanitarian engineering with the support of the General Sir John Monash Foundation
  • Her passion for futurism and how societies progress in a socially different way 
  • How Jess’s work fits in the Smart Communities space 
  • How Jess has used her creative and collaborative skills in past projects to bring in new ways of thinking and ideas 
  • How Jess’s training has helped give her a different perspective 
  • What a Smart Community is to Jess and how important visualising the future of communities is to shape them
  • Some of the recent projects Jess has been working on and some of her achievements focussing on futurism 
  • How art can trigger emotional responses that allow people to think differently and boldly about the future of communities 
  • How art galleries or libraries can be the hub of communities and integrated with Councils 
  • The emerging trends of the post Covid world and communities and the different elements people now require in Smart Communities 


“[I am] about to move over to England with the support of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, to study humanitarian engineering, which is an exciting new field that crosses over some of those elements existing already, and really interested to see what’s been done in that space as well.”

“I believe, before we create for the future, the first thing you have to do is imagine it and visualise it. I think having that visual reference of where we want to be, what it looks like, what are the adjectives and what does it feel like, is a really good way to set that direction and that focus as well.”

“Conversations are such an integral part of introducing these Smart Cities/Smart Community concepts, and bringing people into a room together has so many more benefits than you would imagine.”

“Being able to represent [different perceptions] and share that with other people in a way that they can interpret and they can use as their own reference for reality. I think that’s something artists do really well. And a skill that’s probably not recognised as much as it could be for the way it can actually help drive real change and help people move forward on important issues.”

“I think a Smart City/Smart Community is a meaningfully connected community. So a place that’s inclusive, accessible for everyone and that has a really kind of flexible, squishy feeling where it can change uses depending on demographics, and it can adjust and flux and I imagine a Smart Community as a very creative kind of agile, green space.”

“I hope to see people having important conversations about emotions and visions of the future and that sort of thing. I’d really like to see that grow in [art] galleries in the future and be a place where people feel really welcome to imagine and discuss and reflect on themselves as well.”

“There is quite a bit of buzz around what the post COVID world is going to look like, and chatter about that. In terms of bringing some imagination back into [communities], not necessarily returning to how things exactly where I think this is really the widespread feeling of people, they need different things from their communities and their cities and their neighbourhoods.”


Jess’s website 


Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Jess via LinkedIn 

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community  

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital


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