Sculpture will depict Murray Bridge’s agricultural history
Councillors have approved a revised design for a controversial artwork at Sturt Reserve.
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In their search for a compromise, two artists and Murray Bridge’s councillors have turned over a new leaf.
A new design for a $70,000 artwork intended to honour the district’s farming pioneers won approval at a council meeting on Monday night.
Councillors had rejected the previous version in December, with one describing it as “daggy looking junk”.
The new design is still shaped like a eucalyptus leaf – “a recognisable form which represents the land used for agriculture,” according to artists Laura Wills and William Cheesman.
“The leaf becomes a canvas for a series of images and stories that celebrate the rich history of settler agriculture in the area,” they said.
Its surface will now feature a map of Murray Bridge overlaid with local agricultural imagery, including a bullock cart, glasshouses and silos.
On the back of the artwork will be an image of one of the milk boats which ferried cans, groceries and passengers up and down the River Murray prior to the 1940s.
A couple of other touches may yet be added, too, including a reference to Ngarrindjeri agricultural practices.
In recent months, the artists had refined the concept at two workshops with councillors, community advisory committee members, Murray Bridge Regional Gallery director Fulvia Mantelli and Country Arts SA’s Lauren Mustillo.
Cr Airlie Keen said the discussion at those workshops had been “pretty robust”.
“We’ve come a long way, we’ve learnt quite a few lessons along the way in relation to the definition of an artwork and a memorial,” she said at this week’s council meeting.
“We will have something pretty unique, pretty bespoke to our community and, I believe, authentic to our community … a thinking piece.”
Still, Cr Clem Schubert said he was unhappy at the outcome.
“The original program, as I understood it, was to recognise the pioneers … and what they did for this community,” he said.
“I don’t believe it’s been recognised to anywhere near what its true extent should be.”
It would have been better to install something less arty that honoured the British, Germans, Italians, Vietnamese and other waves of immigrant farmers who had opened up the region to agriculture, he suggested, perhaps drawing on the history exhibited at the Captain’s Cottage Museum.
The council will spend up to $70,000 to have the sculpture made and installed in the next few months.
It will be placed near the old mill, at the T-junction where Wharf Road meets Olympic Drive.