The importance of public art lies in its ability to connect and engage across a broad cross-section of the community. Public art aims to speak to the individual, or to a large group of people, at the same time. It creates a sense of community and helps to build a personal, meaningful, local identity by celebrating the uniqueness of the place. There are always many stories to tell, some relating to the history of the place, relevant characters, or significant events related to the location. These stories are what makes pubic art an unveiling and intriguing experience.
For Gregory Hills, we tell many stories built around the history of the landholding. This history is weaved through the simple concept of ‘self-improvement and betterment of oneself’ – an aspiration held by many who have been associated with the land. The hope is that the new landholders will also feel this connection and share in this aspiration for the future. The broader Macarthur area has so many fascinating and unique stories that helped form our nation, the stories told here just being some of them.
The Gregory Hills Public Art Strategy is a collection of 15 sculptural works positioned around the Gregory Hills site. The strategy created is about telling a story, educating, inspiring and celebrating the history of the landholding that is now a residential estate. Telling a story, the public works of art focus on the key areas of:
Thomas Donovan the Shakespearean scholar, Academic, and Philanthropist.
The Marist Brother Education, improvement, betterment and the heroes.
Mount St Gregory the Scenic Hills, the topography and Aboriginal Heritage.
St. Gregory’s College The History and the rural and agricultural settings.
The social impact of public art does many things, most of which can be divided into four areas:
Engage civic dialogue and community;
Attract attention and economic benefit;
Connect artists with communities; and
Enhance public appreciation of art.
The public art created around the estate spans from sculptural form, interactive pieces, landforms, lighting based works, informative aboriginal connection, informative community connections, and educational signage.
Working together, all these different forms of works help to engage the audience to understand the history of the Gregory Hills estate, and the traditional landowners of the Darug, Dharawal and Gandangara People. At distinctive, we have developed 15 works to celebrate the area, collaborating with indigenous artist Danielle Mate Sullivan.
A selection of works within the public art strategy include:
'Bunya' is a sculptural representation of the seed pods produced by the Bunya Pine. This native tree, which produces excellent timer, edible nuts and is culturally significant to Aboriginal people was also admired by early European settlers being a prized botanical specimen in most of the early colonial times.
Located centrally in Bunya Park on the far eastern extent of Gregory Hills, this same site once housed the caretaker's cottage with the existing tree being a remnant planting associated with the cottage.
Apple And The Needle
The sculpture celebrates Marcellin Champagnat who's life was a crusade to rescue poor children and help improve their lives through care and education.
There is a Marist legend regarding Champagnat and his teachings about spreading the word of god throughout the whole of the earth - represented by him in the form of a giant apple with a needle passing through it. The legend has it that in describing his desire to spread the word of god he demonstrated this by passing a needle through an apple, the needle entering the apple was France and coming out in the pacific region close to Australia and New Zealand. This legend is the inspiration for the artwork.
'Apple and The Needle' is centred within Marcellin park amongst local native trees
Illuminate is intended to be a sculptural lighting expression following the sweeping curve of the pedestrian bridge to emulate the experience of crossing over a natural creek line.
The early European settlers were closely connected to the sources and origins of water within the landscape, establishing their homes, estates and townships based on the availability of water and proximity of suitable agricultural land.
The landscape of our colonial past was determined largely by the natural assets the land holds and how we could utilise them. As humanity has developed and grown, our perceptions of our direct reliance on the natural landscape have been diminished. What we must all realise is that our connection to nature and the natural landscape underpins all of our successes and that we remain connected to the landscape and indeed continue to interact and be influenced by something as simple as the movement of water.