Art for more than art’s sake

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Wodonga Council’s proposal for an iconic art work to grace their CBD is well intentioned and quite possibly a great investment, but at anywhere between $600,000 and $1 million, it has drawn some criticism from rate payers whom may want either council debt lowered, or better value for money.

Art works can be a great lure for tourists, and a very real possibility exists for art works of large scale to draw in a lot of tourists, if they are produced in a novel and worthy way. Let me take you through a possible scenario, offered as though it has already occurred.

Last Sunday saw the official opening of the North East Art Trail with VIPs from all over Australia attending the festivities. After gathering at Wodonga’s Racecourse and chomping at the bit through several speeches, buses, car-loads and many motor bikes headed south-west to follow the tour through several scenic regions and 12 overly large art installations.

The tour is a result of 12 months of preparations, construction and much enjoyment, all focussed on providing Work for the Dole participants with some much needed activities due to the recent changes in receiving unemployment benefits. A proposal was put to a gathering of councils from across the region just on a year ago, and while they eagerly came on board, they had no idea how amazing the end result would be. And how little it would cost them.

As many will know, these past two weeks have seen the installations erected after months of preparations, when reports filtered in from travellers about what they were seeing arise within the fields, atop the hills, and at the ends of lengthy valleys. Today sees that journey come to fruition for everyone who happens to drive past these locations, which are listed below in order of their appearance. Please note that all installation sites are upon private property, kindly allowed for use by their owners, and as such, it is not advised to approach them up close.

1km west of LaTrobe University on Wodonga’s outskirts are two out-of-commission satellite receiver dishes as upturned tortoises on the south side of Hume Freeway.

1km before the Barnawartha turnoff on the north side of the freeway, a dozen recycled windmill stands made up as a troupe of grazing giraffes.

500m past the Chiltern turn-off on the south side of the freeway, rising against a hill, recycled cables laid out as a spider’s web and a many-legged water tank crawling across it.

2km past Springhurst on the west side of the freeway are several large rectangles looking like picture frames. These come alive at night with billowing stream having images projected upon the steam.

Just off the Beechworth-Wangaratta Rd turnoff from the freeway are a dozen bug-flowers – recycled telegraph poles with many coloured Volkswagen Beetle shells on top, which begins the return loop to Wodonga.

Just past the White Post Rd turnoff on the Great Alpine Rd at Everton are two large stacks of silos with attachments, making them appear to play tennis with a large world globe.

At the second to last bend before Myrtleford is what can only be described as a Bunyip climbing out of the ground.

At the intersection of Basin Creek Rd and the Yackandandah Rd and 300m away on the north can be seen a large trapeze artist swinging between two stout poles. She carries an umbrella.

2km past the Tunnel Gap Rd turnoff rests what appears to be the world’s largest hot chocolate, complete with marshmallow.

On the way into Yack now lives a wizened, colourful character that would be comfortable in any Christmas carol…complete with pipe and over 40 feet tall.

When you reach Stagthorn Flat, look out to the right and take in the sight of 3 enormous mushrooms and a lady bug.

And the last installation is at the intersection of Tooles Rd and Keiwa Valley Highway, and that one cannot be adequately described, apart from lots of curves, colours and string…a great cacophony of artistic courage.

With official recognition now out of the way, and tour operators already advertising bus trips to take in the Art Trail – complete with varying lunches in townships and wineries, we can be sure our region has just put another feather in its cap for entertainment and value.

Of course none of this would be possible without the Work for the Dole participants and the generous donations of spare parts and materials, tools and mentoring from local businesses and communities. In the years to come, we can only imagine a similar growth to our North East Art Trail will find all manner of installations accompanying a sunny Sunday drive through many scenic areas.

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