She sees art in public places as a means of animating the place, of enriching and deepening people’s understanding of it. For this to be successful the artwork must have meaning in relation to its context, and to realise this it is necessary to invest time and energy in the initial research for a piece, before beginning to think about designs. This can involve talking to all sorts of people who know the place intimately, spending time repeatedly walking around the place and gaining an understanding of its history, geography and ecology.
Sometimes Mary will work directly with local people to make a piece. This can involve inviting them to contribute to an artwork she has designed, as in the River of Words at Ellon Academy, or facilitating them making their own work, as in Merkinch Circles.
In addition to this she believes art can be a powerful educational tool, enabling people to engage with subjects on a deeper level, thinking about and expressing value and emotional impact, rather than just learning facts. She has devised a number of cross-curricular projects for schools in which the arts are used in this way, some of which are outlined here (Hand to Hand and Mortlach Story Walks).