These days examples of public art can be seen in the most unlikely of places – even alongside freeways.
In a bid to expand their reach beyond sometimes stuffy galleries, artists are installing their works in various sites including government buildings, freeway embankments and reserves, parks and outer suburban housing estates.
In keeping with this movement, big birds of a different kind have been spreading their wings at a number of new housing developments in recent years.
Sculpted eagles, kookaburras, emus, kingfishers, pelicans and other birds are part of the new wave of public art which is being installed at a range of outer urban and regional residential communities in Victoria, New South
Wales and Queensland.
Other artworks to catch the eye of both visitor and resident alike include flowers, grasses and insects.
Developers such as Villawood Properties and AVJennings have placed the artworks in their estates as a way of distinguishing from their competitors and instilling community pride.
Demographer Chris McNeill says that public art at housing estates has reached new heights in the last 15 years.
“Whereas public art was previously understated, if provided at all, the past 15 years has seen increasingly bold artistic statements included within public open space areas or at signature locations within new estates,’’ says Mr McNeill, a director of Spade Consultants.
“Sometimes public art features are included as a condition of development but there is a growing movement by some developers to make use public art as a way of branding their estates and adding a point of differentiation.’’
Mr McNeill believes Villawood Properties was the first developer to “really make a creative statement’’ with its flower sculptures at Seasons estate in the Melbourne suburb of Tarneit in the early 2000s.
“Others have followed suit and now, public art is a feature of many new broad hectare estates,’’ says Mr McNeill, a former policy advisor to the Urban Development Institute of Australia.
Villawood Properties executive director Rory Costelloe says the installation of the sculptures is in keeping with his philosophy of making new estates more than just a collection roads and freshly constructed homes.
Mr Costelloe first came up with the idea of placing artworks in his estates after visiting the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show several years ago.
It was here that he discovered the work of Tasmanian-based sculptor Folko Kooper.
“I just liked them after seeing them at the flower show,’’ says Mr Costelloe of the artwork, which can be seen at Villawood estates in outer Melbourne, regional Victoria as well as developments in New South Wales and Queensland.
The Villawood chief says residents appreciate the large-than-life sculptures.
“They all love the nature of the birds,’’ he says.
Mr Kooper, who regards himself as pioneer in public art installation, says there are a range of reasons why artworks are proliferating in public spaces.
“We are starting to see a lot of it because Corten steel is now available,’’ he says.
“It’s affordable and weather resistant whereas sculptures beforehand were mostly done in bronze, which was prohibitively expensive.’’
The artist adds that public art is also on the rise because governments are allowing for it when constructing or renovating buildings.
“In Tasmania, where I am based, there is an allowance from government for art wherever a new government building is contructed or renovated,’’ Mr Kooper says.
Mr Costelloe says the sculptures by Mr Kooper and Yvonne George “are visually striking, and have become attractions for residents and visitors alike’’.
“They help create a sense of local community identity for residents. Our sculptures include eagles, kookaburras, kingfishers, pelicans, butterflies, emus, wildflowers and grasses.’’
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