Various artists: Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail. sculpturebythesea.com/snowyvalleys.
Exhibitions of sculpture and sculpture parks have become relatively commonplace. An extensive specially planned sculpture trail takes cultural tourism to a whole new level and, as far as I am aware, this is unique in Australia. I cannot readily think of parallels abroad on such a scale.
The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail is an exciting and bold initiative, taking place in Canberra's backyard along a trail that runs approximately 100 kilometres from Adelong to Tooma, along which in seven locations major sculptures are installed. Funded to about $4 million through the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, the selected sculptures represent the work of a mix of well-known Australian sculptors and a number of international participants.
The sculptures are being installed in three phases: the first one now, in May 2022, with 26 sculptures installed; the second, later this year; and the final one in April 2023. Initially there was a plan for about 30 sculptures, but it appears that the number will easily exceed this. It is a picturesque part of the world that in part was ravaged by bushfires in 2019-20 and is home to wineries, boutique cideries (think of Batlow) and scenic bush walks that are a magnet for tourists. The idea was to provide another incentive to visit the area - to see world-class sculpture in spectacular bush and forest settings.
The project is the brainchild of David Handley of Sculpture by the Sea fame. He expanded his initial idea of a world-class sculpture park in the Snowy Mountains to a sculpture trail after extensive consultations with community organisations in Adelong, Batlow, Tumbarumba and Tooma. With Sculpture by the Sea spearheading the project, we experience both the professionalism of the organisation that stages the spectacular sculpture shows at Bondi and Cottesloe as well as the common choice of sculptors encountered at those venues. I think that all of the sculptors thus far installed have all previously shown with Sculpture by the Sea, although there are others in the pipeline who will be newcomers to the organisation. The bushfire recovery money was designed for "shovel-ready" projects, so many of the sculptures were "off the shelf" and could be acquired and installed promptly.
The biggest single challenge facing such an enterprise is the support of the local community. Only a few days ago, a local philanthropist managed to get most of his local town of Dorrigo offside by donating and erecting a large $300,000 stainless steel Cloud sculpture by Stuart Green over the main street. Many of the locals failed to warm to it.
The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail organisers have gone out of their way to get the local community inside the tent. Former mayor of the Snowy Valleys Council, the sculpture-loving James Hayes, has been an important conduit to the local community, as well as the extensive schools program, and numerous community groups.
Haruyuki Uchida's four-metre-high bright red swaying stainless steel tower supported with magnets and set within a vineyard is one brilliant highlight. Michael Le Grand's six-metre-long painted steel piece, Schism, located along the river in Adelong, is another. Slovakian artist Lubomir Mikle is represented a few hundred metres further down the track along the river with a huge, bold corten steel construction.
Up in the trees floats Tania Spencer's copper three-and-a-half-metre Gumnut Cap Trio as well as Norton Flavel's stainless steel and crystal three-metre dew drop. Near the Victorian border, at Tooma, is Keizo Ushio's monumental granite "doughnut" that is guaranteed to become a selfie magnet.
Here, art is called upon to rescue and inspire a whole region of Australia that has suffered so much devastation.
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