Reviving public art

In a year when silver linings were few and far between, a wonderful positive emerged out of COVID-19 at this year’s River of Art Festival.  Even better, it’s a silver lining that will be enjoyed by thousands of people for decades to come.

River of Art Festival

Festival organisers had long been keen to create a mural trail through the Eurobodalla, so when they were rethinking how River of Art could be run in a pandemic with strict social distancing conditions, they seized on the opportunity to fast track their plans.

“The River of Art Festival committee has talked about this for last couple of years. Council has also been looking about how to encourage and foster more public art – so it’s been a nice coming together of ideas and the right moment,” says Di Jay, co-chair of the annual festival.

The mural project, called REVIVE, received support from the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Disaster Relief Fund. The resulting six artworks (two in Batemans Bay, one in Central Moruya, two in Narooma and one in Tilba Tilba) were specifically commissioned for their individual locations, and are already being appreciated across the region.

“This project was about community resilience and was a way to celebrate, reinvigorate and strengthen our community after the bushfires and a difficult 2020,” says Di.

The massive artworks were curated by professional public artist, Tim de Haan (“PHIBS”). A professional public artist who has been prominent in the Australian street art scene for over 30 years, Tim has strong family ties to the Eurobodalla region.

Artists, including Tim (who worked on two of the murals, one with renowned indigenous artist Cheryl Overton), used REVIVE to celebrate the area’s impressive coastline, marine life, and native flora and fauna, as well as its recovery from the devastating 2020 bushfires.

The project certainly kept Tim busy.  As well as his curatorial role, he painted a wall at the roundabout near Lighthouse Surgery in Narooma, before joining with Cheryl for a joint work at Narooma’s Quota Park.

Cheryl, a leading artist from the South Coast, designed their joint work as a celebration of native flora and fauna, Indigenous culture and traditional foods. 

Meanwhile, across the region, Wollongong-based artist Claire Foxton used her artistic flair on a wall outside the Moruya Pharmacy; multidisciplinary artist Krimsone worked on a laneway wall in Batemans Bay; and around the corner, Moruya-based artist and illustrator HAPPY DECAY (Bjarni Wark) worked his craft at the corner of North and Perry Streets Batemans Bay. 

 Away from the coast at the start of the Gulaga Walking Track, Michelle Slezak & Evelyn Joy spread some colour in Tilba Tilba.

While some artists like to create in private, in this case the process was as public as the final artworks. Each artist created their unique mural in real time during the 2020 Festival in September. 

According to Di, visitors were entranced by the focus on both nature and art, and no doubt will look forward to the evolution of the project in coming years as it continues to celebrate some of the region’s favourite places.

“These murals represent the beginning of a public art trail that will be built upon each year,” Di says.

Check out the murals on a drive through Eurobodalla.