Placed in a variety of sites, public art is intended for everyone, a form of collective community expression. It reflects how we see the world – it is the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are. What distinguishes public art is its unique associations with how it is made, where it is placed and what it means. Excitingly, there are a number of public artworks which have just been completed, or are coming to fruition, over the coming months in our region.

Jenny McCracken – ‘Beyond the Wall’

Firstly, internationally acclaimed artist Jenny McCracken has created a stunning installation on the side of the old Salvo’s building, on the corner of Queen and Alice Streets, Barraba. ‘Beyond the Wall’ is a wonderful explosion of nature, featuring the spectacular Horton Falls. There are 3D elements to the mural, along with numerous local species of birds, including a King Parrot, Swift Parrot, Galah, Red-rumped Parrot, Eastern Rosella and a Pacific Necked Heron.

This mural has been created due to the dedication of the Barraba Public Art Committee, with support from Council and external funding. Throughout the process, five designs or design variations in total were developed in a collaborative process with the artist to ensure the mural’s unique association to Barraba was reflected in the final artwork.

It reflects how we see the world - it is the artist's response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are.

Lucy Irvine – ‘To Hold Place’

The design and production for Lucy Irvine public artwork ‘Holding Place’ is now complete thanks to the continued support and extensive assistance from Andromeda Industries in Moonbi. The intention of this artwork is to create a welcoming entry point to Bicentennial Park and members of the public travelling on Kable Avenue. This artwork provides a placemaking narrative for Tamworth and brings Tamworth’s association with textile art into the public space. This artwork has just been installed and can also be viewed by night. During the evening the work is professionally lit and the stunning steel structure and weaving are clearly visible.

Karen Balsar – ‘The Strength Within’

Artist Karen Balsar has created a public artwork to be located at Nundle. The sculpture, ‘The Strength Within’, took inspiration from the delicate ‘Chinese Lantern’ flower as it fades, symbolising life within death. This work also has an immediate connection to Nundle through the town’s Chinese heritage. Made from core-ten weathering steel and mild steel, this delicate work is planned for installation over the coming months.

In Karen’s own words: “hand-shaped, intricate metal lacework armour encases delicate seeds. Symbolising the fragility of life and the inner strength to carry on with courage, bravery and determination. The lantern plant is seen as a symbol of ‘life within death’. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Tanya Bartlett – ‘John Williamson’

A public art statue of singer-song writer John Williamson cast in bronze by artist Tanya Bartlett will be located in Peel Street. Fundraising efforts have been considerable with the design now finalised and the artwork due for completion by January 2022 for the 50th anniversary of the Australian Country Music Festival.

Everlon & Co Pty Ltd – ‘Taking Flight’

Finally, the new roundabout under construction at the intersection of the Oxley Highway and Country Road also includes public art subject to final approvals. The artwork ‘Taking Flight’ was selected by a working group due to its strong linkages with aviation, the region’s natural landscapes and the connection to Tamworth’s City of Light history. The artwork is being developed by Everlon & Co Pty Ltd who has extensive experience in large-scale sculptures.

Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness and even question our assumptions. It can tell stories and histories and connect people to place. It can create orientating landmarks and places where people want to gather. It can create identity and a feeling of pride, and generate cultural tourism. It can express ideas or emotions that create a response and discussion.

{words: Bridget Guthrie - with assistance from the Association of Public Art and the identified public artists and committeesartwork: Jenny McCracken - 'Beyond the Wall'photograph: Zest Events International}