Public art is an energetic part of public environments. Creative projects support cultural identity and offer interesting places for play, engagement and reflection. Community planning for the new Civic Centre identified art as an important to the design of the building and public domain. Art was seen as an opportunity to express the culture of Shellharbour and its people. Themes were explored reflecting the Aboriginal, pioneering and contemporary culture of Shellharbour.
A major water artwork, Aquifer, symbolises the emergence and disappearance of water in a dry landscape. The art along with the creekline is designed to be enjoyed by the public especially in summer.
Aquifer is the most significant artwork and takes pride of place in the Civic Square, integrated with the water feature. The artwork features a large brass bowl at one side of the Square, from which water flows along a creek bed to a cluster of smaller raised bowls which act as waterfalls to play in and around.
Weaving Pods uses woven work to create designs on concrete seating elements along the creekline. The patterns reflect the movement of Aboriginal people through the coastal landscape, the coastline as habitat and the coming together of communities.
The artwork is integrated with seating areas in the Civic Square. Uncle Steven and Kristine developed woven designs using traditional Aboriginal techniques which were cast into the round concrete seating ‘pods’.
Justin Sayarath describes Biotica as “an orb of excitement integrated in an explosion of colour”. Biotica is a metal sculpture which features street art style designs developed during workshops with local young people. Youth involvement in public art was an energetic part of the project. Biotica is an exciting sculpture that uses street art techniques.
The Council had several themes they wanted to explore with the Civic Centre public art. Artist Warwick Keen chose People of the Sky and Tide because it spoke to him immediately as being the most relevant choice to reflect the local Aboriginal culture and lifestyle. The abstract image that evolved as the finished 20 panel mural, represents the sea and the sky, relating to the Indigenous people of the region.
The stylised wave patterning was created at first to symbolise the movement of the tide, and when inverted it symbolises both cloud and air currents found within the sky-scape. Splashes of colour were later introduced to simulate water and broken cloud formations.
The colour blue was always going to be pivotal in this work because of the theme and it also creates a calming and soothing atmosphere within the area that it is installed. This serenity again speaks of the lifestyle and environment of pre-colonial Aboriginal heritage.
Mentoring young artists and designers was part of the creative agenda for the Civic Centre’s public art. A partnership with University of Wollongong resulted in Land Poetry, beautiful designs on the interior offices glass by students Laura Noonan and Chloe Shelley who responded to the visual themes of surf, mist, cloud and sky. This artwork doubles as privacy screening on meeting rooms in the Administration building.
The Shellharbour Civic Centre Public Art Plan was developed in collaboration with Marla Guppy of Guppy Art Management