by Laura Foss
The giant head of a kangaroo towered over the crowd assembled in the Airds car park on a recent Saturday evening. It was the unveiling of Transforma and not even the persistent drizzle could dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of those in attendance.
Transforma was created during a seven-week residency of New Zealand artist Michel Tuffery as part of the C3West program that creates opportunities for artists to work with business and non-art organisations. As part of the program, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown City Council, and a number of local businesses and community organisations partnered with Mr Tuffery to heighten community awareness of the local environment and the problems of anti-social behavior, such as littering and illegal dumping, that threaten the environment.
Mr Tuffery consulted extensively with the community, and identified a recurring community concern: the ecological health of the upper St Georges River. Over the years, countless cars have been burnt and dumped along the riverbank in the area known as The Woolwash, causing substantial harm to the river ecosystem. Out of this, Transforma was born.
“Transforma tries to create a sense of stewardship over the river,” says Michael Dagastino, Director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre. The shells of a number of abandoned, burnt cars were fished from the river and were transformed into a spectacular sculpture of a kangaroo during Michel Tuffery’s residency. During this time, Mr Tuffery and his team engaged with community regarding the project and ran a number of art workshops with local young people.
“He hit the ground running, started meeting with people, participating in programs and became an instant part of the community. It is this commitment that will make Transforma resonate with the community for years to come,” says Mr Dagastino.
Following its unveiling, Transforma was donated to Airds High School to be permanently displayed in the school grounds.
The C3West program was established in 2006 by the Australian Council of the Arts in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, to bring together businesses and other organisations, with art institutions and established artists to develop strategies and opportunities for collaboration.
“It’s a much more closely integrated way of designing an art project to meet some kind of need that business identifies,” says Elaine Lally, Associate Professor in Communications at the University of Technology and editor of the book The Art of Engagement: Culture, Collaboration, Innovation, a study of the C3West program and its unique arts-business-community collaborations. C3West partnerships are distinct from the traditional, sponsorship types of relationships common between corporations and artists.
The C3West program has curated a number of successful projects over the past few years, including In Walking Distance, a partnership between artist Garry Trinh and Western Sydney Parklands, and Heads Up, a partnership between Penrith Panthers and artist Craig Walsh. These collaborations can be inherently tricky, particularly with corporate, for-profit partners who can often have a bottom line mentality with regards to results.
“For profit partners and corporations have a different way of looking at the value, the return on investment. The conversations within the organisations are different,” Dr Lally says. Often success in these circumstances is dependent on skilled brokerage between the artist and the corporate partner, and an understanding on the part of the corporate partner that real success requires commitment not only during the project, but also after the project in order to carry on and take advantage of the relationships with the community developed during the project.
“Having the CEO or the person at the top of the decision-making tree understanding the value in the project,” Dr Lally says.
The C3West program is already working with Western Sydney Parklands and well-known UK artists Heather and Ivan Morison. The pair will bring out their sculpture Sleepers Awake, a large iridescent float that will hover in the sky over Bungaribee, a park located in the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown. The sculpture, to be displayed over 10 days, is a celebration of the ongoing transformation of the park from a formally empty stretch of bush into a community hub.
“We want the community to participate in the awakening of this incredible space, ” says Calli Brown, Communications Officer at Western Sydney Parklands. “The Parklands is an important recreational and cultural destination for western Sydney and Sleepers Awake will be a memorable, exciting and inspiring event.”
In addition to the sculpture, Western Sydney Parklands has recruited a number of local performing artists to showcase their talents. “The community performance aspect of the installation is at the heart of this event,” Ms Brown says.
This is Western Sydney Parklands second artist partnership instigated through the C3West. “We see the collaboration with C3West and the artists as being a meaningful way of creating a sense of community through artistic expression,” says Ms Brown.
Sleepers Awake will be on display at Bungaribee from 17-26 May.
Associate Professor Elaine Lally – 0417 269 576
Michael Dagastino – 4645 4100 (Campbelltown Arts Centre)
Calli Brown – 9895 7429
Lally, E et al, The Art of Engagement: Culture, Collaboration, Innovation, (2011, UWA Publishing, Crawley Western Australia)