Art Trail breathes new life into Northern communities
[by Isis Symes]
A new art trail set to become a drive-tourism drawcard has come to life in Queensland’s North.
Six cohesive, contemporary, large-scale permanent feature artworks have been installed in Burketown, Croydon, Normanton, Georgetown, Karumba and Doomadgee as part of the Savannah Way Art Trail.
Created and installed by artists Glen Manning and Kathy Daly (Manning Daly Art) in consultation with local government, community and First Nations artists, each abstract sculpture tells its own unique story that is relevant to each of the six townships along the art trail.
In Georgetown, a beautiful version of the community’s unofficial floral emblem, the kapok, blooms.
“As a symbolic landmark, the sculpture reinforces a sense of arrival and identity to the town while also providing a complex narrative, speaking of people, place and identity connecting people both physically and emotionally to the location,” artist Glen Manning said.
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“The rusty patina of Corten steel contrasts with the luminous colour of the translucent acrylic embedded in the sculptural form, echoing the transformation of the landscape as a defining characteristic of life in Etheridge Shire,” Kathy Daly further explained.
Karumba’s new piece of art provides a significant focal point for sunset watchers with two dancing brolgas taking centre stage.
Located on the foreshore esplanade, the reflective curving shapes within the sculpture, inspired by the marine and fishing industries, lead the eye around the sculptural forms.
“Character of place and the celebration of the unique local identity of Karumba is reflected through the art,” Kathy said.
“The art refers to the abundant birdlife along the art trail and in Karumba, Brolgas are the most prominent, where literally thousands flock to the billabongs and the plains.”
Travellers passing through Doomadgee will now be greeted with a large sculpture signalling the unique importance of the Dirriwaldi fish to the Doomadgee community.
“The striped bait fish is an endemic species of the Doomadgee Shire region and is common to all local Traditional Owner groups,” Glen explained.
“Inspired by the waters of the Nicholson River that provide as a source of food and livelihood for the people of Doomadgee, the art references the importance of the diverse range of fish and aquatic wildlife.
“The sculptural form is a strong symbol connecting place and community, celebrating the unique character of Doomadgee and offers the opportunity to act as a place for discovery, insight and sharing of experiences.”
Rich local history and the returning boomerang has inspired the art for Croydon as the Tagalaka area has always been a meeting place – a place visited and returned to, journeys within the landscape. Design elements acknowledge the rich contributions to local history by First Nations people, migrants, and women.
The petals of The Carpentaria Waterlily, found only in Normanton, and the Magpie Geese that abound at the Mutton Hole Wetlands Conservation Area have been an inspiration for this dynamic sculpture at Normanton.
Burketown’s art is inspired by the significant role of First Nations Rangers through reference to the Australasian Flyways species and the Fresh Water Turtle
Glen and Kathy engaged four First Nations artists who provided design elements for a number of sculptures on the Trail including Tagalaka artists Siyesha Douglas and Krystal Spencer, Waanyi artist Kelly Barclay, and Gangalidda-Garrawa artist Frank Amini.
Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the Savannah Way Art Trail would deliver cultural tourism and economic benefits for North Queensland communities.
“The Savannah Way Art Trail is a significant project that is showcasing the region’s local stories and First Nations cultures, celebrating place and supporting local employment,” Minister Enoch said.
“The art trail, delivered with Queensland Government support through the Regional Arts Services Network (RASN), is an important project for the region and builds on our statewide investment in regional arts.
“This includes our commitment of $7.8 million support to RASN over four years to 30 June 2025 to empower regions to realise arts and cultural priorities and drive change through arts-led initiatives, and $2.13 million in 2022-23 for the Regional Arts Development Fund which partners with 59 regional local councils across Queensland,” Minister Enoch said.
“Our ongoing investment helps to realise the priorities of the Creative Together 2020 – 2030 ten-year roadmap to elevate First Nations arts, activate Queensland’s spaces and places, strengthen communities and share our stories.”
The Savannah Way Art Trail, led by the Regional Arts Services Network (RASN), has been funded under the Year of the Outback Tourism Events Program, the RASN, the Monsoon Trough fund and the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF).
RASN is an initiative of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
RADF is a partnership between the Queensland Government and 59 local councils across the state supporting local arts and culture in regional Queensland.
More information about the Savannah Way Art Trail is available at www.cqu.edu.au/savannahway.