May 28, 2013

Small Town Transformations – and the winner is SYDNEY

In their quest to provide nice ribbon cutting opportunities, the judges of Regional Arts Victoria’s Small Town Transformations project have completely ignored the best practice contemporary principles in terms of town transformation. The old idea, practiced over and over again with very rare examples of success, was to create some kind of big bang spectacle that may or may not attract people to a destination; all of the selected projects fall into this category. Sadly all the winners presented projects that have been done before, so there is no chance that anyone will be able to claim some world first or substantial originality. The new way is to see a town or suburb as numerous interconnected parts that can be altered to improve the quality of life for the residents. The net effect of these small, usually self-initiated interventions is that the residents gain a sense of pride in their own community which, in turn, encourages them to become more enterprising; a raft of modest measures are always far more likely to produce a sustainable and beneficial transformation than a blockbuster spectacle. 

In the previous post I’d promised to do an in-depth analysis of the winning entries but sadly the press release style paragraphs give no clue to how each winning project actually addressed the selection criteria. 

Quite possibly the only winning proposal guaranteed to include high artistic merit is Avoca’s Chinese garden, headed up by Lindy Lee, an artist of very substantial reputation and proven ability, but Lindy is a Sydney artist – yes Sydney, NSW! Don’t get me wrong, personally I couldn’t care less where a good artist comes from, but you’d think that Regional Arts Victoria and the Victorian Government would have thought that this could easily be seen as a huge slap in the face for all regional Victorian artists.

The other choice is completely baffling and it comes from Neerim South, sure they only supplied a very poorly executed illustration of their idea, but even from that, Blind Freddy could see that it is a death trap. The architects on the judging panel should know that Vic Roads and Shires, for good reasons, have very tight regulations on what they will allow people to construct beside and over our roads. So purely on practical grounds, this dangerous work is very unlikely to go ahead.

The judges should have seen the problems associated with scaling this idea into a massive, safe, roadside structure and my educated guess is that the unavoidable engineering, footing, fabrication, permits, crane hire and insurance costs would easily blow away $350.000.

But on top of this there is another equally important issue overlooked by the judges. What they have chosen to sponsor here is the wilful vandalising of a perfectly good and very beautiful landscape. It hurts me deeply to think that the hideous monstrosity will be presented to the world as the best that Gippsland artists can do.

.....You know as I think about this one, it would make a nice little primary school project, perfect as an educational tool in some quite corner of a school yard, involving both little kiddies and bigger ones co-operating with each other, nature trips into the bush, a bit of science and some art, collecting stuff and piling bits and pieces together to make a manageable bower, it could even encourage involvement from the parents. But putting the idea on steroids just won't work.

For further reading you can check out Regional Arts Victoria's own website entry, "Meet the five small towns".

    Cowwarr - Living National Treasure

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