ACT News


New class range at Grammar is K-9

Ten lucky dogs occupying a pristine grassy quadrangle at Canberra Grammar School will leave on Thursday for a new home on the cliffs of Bermagui.

Yes, last Friday, your social-climbing, working-class columnist visited Canberra Grammar (going in by the tradesman's entrance) to do some tradesman's work, and was amazed to see the dogs at large on the grass.

But a closer examination revealed them to be sculpted dogs, arranged in a clever artistic installation by Dinah Vandermeys and Trevor Dunbar.

Dunbar, a teacher at Canberra Grammar and manager of the school's gallery and its art matters, tells us, laughing: ''They're the perfect dogs [especially for dignified quadrangles] because they don't shit and they don't bark!''

These Hounds of Grammar - about to bound away to the Sculpture on the Edge festival at Bermagui - don't do these things because instead of being of flesh and blood, they consist of steel coated with polyurethane.

Dunbar imagines that one day people might commission sculpted portraits like these of beloved but deceased dogs and put their ashes in the cavities.


Both Dunbar and Vandermeys, who teaches art at a school in Yass, are dog lovers and have pets of their own. The ''magnificent 10'' were sculptured based on their dogs and others belonging to their friends.

''They're all Canberra dogs,'' Dunbar says, adding mention of his chocolate labrador and golden retriever.

The Hounds all have unremarkable pet names like Freda, Lucky and Polly.

Dunbar is pleased that installed groups of dogs like these, looking so carefree and so, so silly, ''change the mood of a place''.

This quadrangle was once a formal, corseted spot ''but now the whole tone … has been changed. They make people happy. It's become a huge playground.''

He says all of the children at the school have enjoyed the dogs' temporary company (they have been there since February 9 as part of the Artbeat exhibition) but that the youngest ones in particular ''have gone berserk'' when given the chance to play around them.

As well as not making a mess or barking or spreading fleas, these dogs have the extra virtue, Dunbar says, that when you take them anywhere in the car (as he is about to do), ''they just fold up flat'' and, of course, they don't jump around in the car or vomit.

But what is to become of the dogs in the long term?

Dunbar says that going on last year's experience, they will probably be sold to good homes at the Bermagui festival and he will return home without them. However, he says he and Vandermeys will undoubtedly make some more of them, enabling other ''pop-up exhibitions'' of dogs that will cheer up hitherto cheerless places.

Meanwhile, this gambolling, tongue-lolling 10 will enliven Bermagui's Sculpture on the Edge festival from Saturday until March 11.