Kempsey Shire Council
Kempsey Shire Council Community Projects Officer Olivia Parker is passionate about the importance of public art and the positive effect it can have on communities.
Olivia has been heavily involved in the recent commissioning and management of the two large-scale public artworks that greet travelers entering the Macleay Valley from the new northern and southern gateways, as well as the artworks that form part of the Dunghutti Story Trail – projects she believes contribute to the cultural identity of the Macleay and reflect the fascinating history of the region.
“Public art – particularly these large-scale sculptures – builds a sense of place and connection with our environment and each other,” Olivia says. “Through these projects we can celebrate the richness and diversity of the Macleay Valley’s stories and culture.”
The southern gateway sculpture was completed in July 2018 by artists Paul Johnson and Gail Mason of Artventure. Titled, “Trees”, the striking metal structure is a celebration of the Macleay’s cultural influences, including the region’s first inhabitants, the Dunghutti people, and the early timber getters who established townships.
The creation of the sculpture at the northern gateway near Frederickton is now complete. The commission was awarded to renowned Newcastle artist Matthew Harding, who tragically passed away during the fabrication phase of the project, with srtist Tina Lee will completing the sculpture in his legacy.
“Matthew Harding was an internationally-acclaimed artist, whose works are found in public spaces and galleries all around the world, and in many private collections,” Olivia said.
“He had a personal connection with Kempsey and we are truly honoured to have his incredible work on display here in the Macleay.”
The artwork features a series of upright poles and interlacing wiring representing the giant red cedar forests and billowing sails of Frederickton’s maritime and timber industries, combined with sculptured shell forms signifying the Indigenous middens of the Dunghutti culture in the Macleay.
Another important public art project is the Dhanggati Wiriiyn Yapang (Dunghutti Story Trail), which features sculptures in Bellbrook and Kempsey. The project has seen Council work with local artists and groups to create a series of cultural art poles as well as a landmark sculpture in Bellbrook CWA Park titled ‘Wupu Manhatinum’ (Travelling Star).
“The project team includes local artists, Richard Campbell, Elwyn Toby and Malcolm Dickson with assistance from artist Guy Crosley, Caroline Bradshaw, local primary and high schools and Kempsey Family Support Services,” Olivia says. “It’s been great to be part of a project that involves so many members of the community whilst also preserving and telling important cultural stories.”
Olivia says that Council will continue to prioritise public art as a way of involving and uplifting the Macleay Valley community.
“Subject to grants, we have some fantastic future art projects in the pipeline,” she says. “We’re fortunate to live in a community that values and appreciates the influence of beautiful and meaningful public art.”