Small town spotlight: Top six regional art installations

Rainbow Oasis' Eagle Nest Statue, photo by Ben Gosling

Six Victorian communities have been given a creative shot in the arm by the Small Town Transformations art project.

Small is indeed beautiful when it comes to these artistic endeavours.

The Small Town Transformations project – conceived and funded by the Victorian Government and managed by Regional Arts Victoria – is creating a buzz in some of the state’s tiniest towns, each with populations under 2,000.

With $350,000 granted to each ‘transformation’, a diverse array of projects has seen residents band together over the past two years. Local areas have been turned into exhibition, performance and creative development spaces, new connections have been forged, and new skills and talents developed – all with a lasting effect. With the end of the projects in sight, music, theatre, sculpture and light installations are getting people of all ages and backgrounds talking about, and interacting, with art and the impact it can have.

That uplifting response reflects findings of a recent Australia Council for the Arts survey in which 84 per cent of regional residents noted the positive impact the arts have in their lives.

First launched in 2012 and now in its second iteration, Small Towns Transformation is reinforcing Victoria as the creative state for all our communities – large or small.

A map of Victoria showing Melbourne and the six towns involved in the transformation project, Rainbow, Girgarre, Lake Tyres Beach, Bass Coast, Birregurra and Narrawong

2018 Small Town Transformations calendar

Bass Coast waterline towns

Luminous Galleries display in the Bass CoastParks in the coastal towns of Pioneer Bay, Grantville, Tenby Point, Corinella and Coronet Bay create monthly outdoor light installations for viewing after sunset until the end of August, created by local artists, residents, families and primary school students. You can visit all by car in one night.

The lights represent Indigenous navigation, which uses the night sky to communicate pathways across the land. For dates, see the Bass Coast website.

Birregurra

Participants at an indigenous mural workshop around a paintingBirregurra has created a permanent Indigenous mural, reflecting inter-generational and cross- cultural collaboration, plus a hall redevelopment, landscape architecture, collaborative projection

installations, and a series of artist-led performances and installations inspired by the documented and oral history of this Otway hinterland town.

Girgarre

Musical instruments made of junk and rubbish sitting on display shelvesDrawing on this Goulburn Valley town’s enthusiasm for music, locals are working with international artists-in-residence to create pop-up sound installations, a new outdoor performance space  (Gargarro Soundshell) and a revitalisation of the memorial hall, which includes the installation of a five-panel quilt depicting the history of the town and district. On 16 June, a ticketed laser and sound show, The Great Girgarre Constellation, will be held, created by leading audio-visual artist, Australia’s Robin Fox.

Lake Tyers Beach

A woman's hands weaving a circle made of reedsA floating pontoon-style arts studio on the lake, FLOAT, created by local boat builders and a team of artists, is connecting the many diverse communities that live on and nearby the shores of Lake Tyers in East Gippsland. A pontoon-based artist-in-residence program is also in development. Wildlife observation, a year-long program synchronised with the seasons, and promotion of connections between the town and the Aboriginal Trust will feature.

Narrawong

A group of young adults planning around a tableHome to 351 residents, Narrawong – part of the Dhauwurd wurrung nation – is a coastal town on the Surrey River estuary in Victoria’s south-west. The Indigenous-led permanent public artwork, Kang-o-Meerteek, reflects Narrawong’s heritage and is inspiring multiple community and artist-led projects.

Other community activities have included an Indigenous heritage winter walk-and-talk to Whalers Lookout led by Kang-o-Meerteek’s lead artist, Wal Saunders and forums on Narrawong’s history, with discussions from visiting and local writers.

Rainbow

Five people using light sticks to create a long exposure art image of balls of light surrounding themBy revitalising the historic Rainbow school and grounds into a creative community space, the Oasis Desert Garden is inspiring multiple artistic collaborations – both local and international. One recent event in the garden was the culmination of a week-long visit by a Javanese dance school (Sampang Agung Centre for Performing Arts), which collaborated with the Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Wotjobaluk dancers and local schools. On 6th October, Rainbow will create ‘Way Out West’, a multi-arts festival celebrating two years of creative works.

Q&A: Joe Toohey, CEO, Regional Arts Victoria

The best bit about working with residents to bring the Small Town Transformations project to life?

Joe Toohey smiling towards cameraThe most wonderful discoveries have been from people who have privately and quietly been playing an

instrument, writing a poem or crafting a sculpture at home and have had a chance to share that passion and skill with their community. The projects have unlocked enormous potential in each town.

How does the project bring people together?

By giving communities the opportunity to contemplate big ideas; to work together on long-term, large-scale arts projects that produce lasting legacies. The project supports creative cultures and ambitions that already exist across regional Victoria, providing an opportunity to share, develop and realise ideas together.

What exactly is the project’s legacy?

Delivering something of scale that will drive communities to lead more initiatives like this in the future. New partnerships and organisational relationships, local and beyond, have created a strength that promises to last well beyond this project.

Discover more about Small Town Transformations.