By Tess Macallan, Journalist, Council Magazine

As Australia’s cities and suburbs continue to expand and change, creating vibrant communities that foster a sense of pride and belonging among residents becomes increasingly important. One way to achieve this is through public art, which not only livens up spaces but invites residents to engage and connect with their surroundings. With a ten-year public art plan underway, Wyndham City Council is aiming to transform the city’s identity while providing opportunities for local artists to contribute to the cultural tapestry of the community.

Over the next ten years, Wyndham City Council plans to develop a world-class public art program, delivering dynamic and contemporary public art in a creative celebration of place, culture and environment to its diverse community. The Wyndham Public Art Plan 2022- 2032 was formally adopted in September 2022, and a spokesperson for the City said its first year of implementation has already seen a number of successes.

One of the first major commissions initiated under the plan received the 2023 LGPro Award for Diversity and Inclusion. That project was the creation of ‘Voice of the Land, Voice of the People, Voice of our Heart, Voice of Mother – Mother Tongue’ – led by Gunditjmara artist Dr Vicki Couzens.

“Developed through collaboration with local multicultural artists from the Bunurong, African Diaspora, Bangla, Chin, Karen, Karenni, Maori, Indian and Sikh communities, Couzens worked to incorporate key visual elements from each culture into the final artwork,” the spokesperson said.

“The project was initiated by the Victorian Bangladeshi Community Foundation (VBCF) who approached Wyndham City to discuss its desire for a Shaheed Minar Monument to be located in Wyndham. “Following discussions with the VBCF and other stakeholders, it was agreed that it was important to expand the concept of the project to one that engaged with the broad theme of the preservation of Mother Language, and representation of language diversity for all cultures in Wyndham.”

Frog Dreaming Maree Clarke, Dr Vicki Couzens & Jeph

Shaping a shared identity

Wyndham is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia, with the population forecast to increase by 55.7 per cent between 2023 and 20411. With a significant influx of new residents, public art can foster a sense of community, celebrate and acknowledge different cultures and help meet the demand for well-designed public spaces.

The Council spokesperson said public art plays an important role in the ongoing development of Wyndham City. “Public art provides a way to bring people together and build connections within our diverse community. It is the essence of our city and livens up public spaces.

“It also plays an important part in enhancing our city’s identity. The creation and visual changes that the program makes to the city generates vibrancy that contributes to cultural, economic life and builds civic pride.”

While rapid population growth often brings challenges related to increased density and changing urban landscapes, thoughtfully planned public art projects can help provide spaces for reflection, recreation and community interaction. The commissioning of significant temporary and permanent public art is also playing a significant role in transforming the City’s identity and reputation to visitors. Visually appealing public artworks can be magnets for tourism, resulting in increased foot traffic to local businesses, generating revenue and contributing to economic growth.

“The role of public art in public spaces is to create spaces of wonder, intrigue, colour, surprise and beauty for the greater community who use and access the space.

“As the program matures, we are seeing the positive impact of the program on tourism and visitor attraction.”

Public art programs can be thoughtprovoking, encouraging discussion, debate and new perspectives. For some councils, such programs might be accompanied by concerns about whether the commissioned artwork will resonate with a broad spectrum of residents and visitors.

“Public art is highly subjective and open to interpretation, yet the overwhelming response to the work in this space is one of appreciation and positivity.” Council’s Public Art Collection is made up of permanent public artworks located in public spaces, pop-up artworks, temporary installations and projects.

The Wyndham Public Art Plan 2022-2032 was produced following extensive research, consultation and global benchmarking to understand priorities and look for opportunities. This included consultation with public art consultants T Projects. “Our vision is to support and develop a public art collection of quality and regional significance,” the spokesperson said.

“To achieve our vision to develop a world class public art program we need a holistic approach through consultation, artist development, communication, education, engagement, research and evaluation.”

Expanding opportunities for local artists

One of the pillars of the decade-long art plan is to develop public art opportunities for local artists through a range of initiatives including permanent and temporary commissions and professional development.

“Wyndham City is committed to developing, supporting and encouraging creative communities across Wyndham and has a range of programs and funding available to assist local artists.

“In the coming year a professional development mentoring program will be rolled out to support artists to continue to develop their skills in transitioning from studio and gallery into public spaces.” All commissioning opportunities include one-on-one support and information sessions to encourage local participation.

In the program’s first year of implementation, one local artist was chosen to deliver a temporary light-based installation, and another has been commissioned for a major railway station rejuvenation project funded by program partner PTV. In addition to these, a further six artists were mentored through a public art project led by curators at Deakin University.

“Wyndham City’s Arts and Culture programs support local artists through a range of initiatives from hiring local artists and creatives for events and arts programs, free professional development workshops, direct grants to artists, commissions to artists, the provision of temporary art spaces and many other projects,” the spokesperson said.

When considering artists for specific areas or works, Wyndham City takes into account a range of considerations including timelines, cost, previous experience, the aesthetics of the space and avoiding disruptions to local business. Commissions for public art are appointed through several processes depending on the scale and cost of the project and artist fee.

Local artists are encouraged to apply for open call and expression of interest opportunities as well as considered and included in invitation and shortlist selection processes.

Taking Flight David “Meggs” Hooke

Promoting diversity and unification

“Public art is central to the ongoing development of Wyndham as an inspiring, inclusive, diverse, effervescent, artistic and engaged City,” the spokesperson said. “Council, through consultation and through considered curation of the program, balances a need to provide unique and cultural representation reflecting our diverse community with a need to provide unifying and universal themes.”

The spokesperson said this ethos is reflected in the recent commissioning of a new major mural of scale by First Nations artist Tommy Day. The vibrant colourful mural titled Mooroop Yarkeen, which translates to ‘Spirit Dreaming’ will transform the city skyline with depictions of the Werribee River, habitat, and cultural heritage, all inter-connecting themes of Werribee and its First Nations’ history.

The four curatorial themes selected for the Wyndham program are:

  • Foregrounding
  • Localism
  • Habitat
  • Futurism

These themes will remain in place for the lifespan of the plan, and are applied across all arts and culture programs. This approach is informed by consultation, research and bench-marking against global and national best practice. However, a review will be conducted every three years to track what themes may need more focus and overall impact of the program. This reflects Council’s commitment to understanding the evolving needs of the Wyndham City community and ensures the public art commissioned under the program will continue to resonate with the community for years to come.

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