PUBLIC ART: Maqette of the sculpture proposed for Railway Park
PUBLIC ART: Maqette of the sculpture proposed for Railway Park Contributed

Whatever became of Byron Bay's $80,000 sculpture?

WHEN the refurbished Railway park opened last weekend to much fanfare and approval one element was missing.

The $80,000 pandanus seed inspired sculpture, Memento Aestates commissioned in March this year by council was not there and is no longer part of the project.

Had council been scared off from commissioning and placing large public art after the Ewingsdale Road Lighthouse Sculpture debacle?

Mayor Simon Richardson admitted Councillors had been shocked by the furore over the controversial $55,000 Lighthouse sculpture.

But he rejected the idea council had taken fright at the prospect of another backlash from local keyboard warriors.

"We were certainly burned by the vitriol and hysteria over the Lighthouse sculpture,” Mayor Richardson said.

"We were disappointed those who supported public art, and the Lighthouse sculpture were so silent during the controversy, while those against it were so vociferous.

"But ultimately the decision was made by the designers, and council agreed, that on aesthetic grounds the focus of the project should be on the Indigenous artworks components in the park.

"We will be considering Memento Aestates for other upcoming projects where it can have the space to resonate with its surroundings and not just get 'plonked' down somewhere for the sake of it.”

A staff report to Council at the August 22 meeting had recommended the sculpture be shelved for the time being and considered for other locations and future projects.

In addition, according to the report, having paid $40,000 deposit for the the sculpture, as of the August, the work was only 10% complete and likely to miss the deadline for the parks opening by three months.

The report also noted advice from Dan Plummer, landscape architect for the project, was that an additional sculpture in the park would not be a good design outcome- both aesthetically (in terms of overcrowding the space), but also in terms of sight lines.

Instead he preferred that the Arakwal artwork should be the key key artistic and cultural feature within the space.

The recommendation to shelve the Pandanus sculpture for now and look at another site was was discussed at most recent meetings of the Byron Masterplan Guidance Group and the Public Art Panel, with both groups in agreement.

Council will now enter into negotiations with the sculptor regarding the artwork's final form and and he unspent project budget ($40,000) be retained in the Section 94A Public Art fund until form and location are sorted.

Finally the staff report said it was important to note that the recommendation is not to decommission the artwork, but to set a hold point in design and manufacture until materials, form and location are determined.