City’s art process ‘bungled’

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Roebourne Art Group's proposed exterior art installation after the totem poles were knocked back.
Camera IconRoebourne Art Group's proposed exterior art installation after the totem poles were knocked back. Credit: Rex Widerstrom.

A prominent Pilbara art group has blasted the City of Karratha over what it claims was a bungled tender process for the installation of artwork at the Red Earth Arts Precinct.

Zen Fine Ironwork’s submission was chosen for the interior feature work but expressions of interest were put out again for the exterior piece after the council decided none of the submissions were suitable.

Zen’s two submissions for the interior piece received the fewest votes of approval from the public among the five concepts put forward.

Roebourne Art Group received the most public support for both the interior and exterior works.

RAG chief executive Rex Widerstrom said thousands of dollars had been spent on designing free-standing poles for the exterior work, only to be told two weeks into the process the City did not want any freestanding installations.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the public art advisory group had to ensure works contributed to the sense of place of the building, were diverse, and represented the City, community and environment.

“The City of Karratha requires that all our public buildings have 2 per cent of their capital cost dedicated to public art projects to ensure we are creating vibrant and unique public spaces,” he said.

“The City welcomes new submissions from the Roebourne Art Group and other local Aboriginal artists for the re-tendered project and we look forward to selecting a fantastic piece that will complement the striking architecture of the precinct.”

At the City’s November council meeting Councillor Evette Smeathers said the options presented were “stock standard”.

Mr Widerstrom has now called for an indigenous art quota for all future projects in the Pilbara to be introduced.

“It’s all very well wheeling out the elders to do the obligatory Welcome to Country every time you open an envelope but what we’re asking for is real, lasting, commitment to letting local indigenous artists tell the stories of their people through enduring public art pieces,” he said.

RAG indigenous manager Loreen Samson said indigenous art would help educate the public about how their ancestors walked this land

“I travel to Darwin and Alice Springs and I see beautiful art works as far as the eyes could see, telling their stories,” she said. “Our towns should help the future children understand their Dreaming places as well as being a teaching place we share together.”

Ms Samson said indigenous art helped close the gap and gain respect for culture from the public.

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