Dungog Festival's new $10k sculpture competition set to boost Hunter tourism
A new not-for-profit sculpture exhibition offering a $10,000 prize has partnered with this year’s Dungog Festival in the New South Wales Hunter Valley.
Sculpture on the Farm will display large and small works in the gardens and paddocks of the Williams River property “Fosterton”, eight kilometres outside Dungog, north of Newcastle.
The Dungog Festival is an annual four-day event, held on the October long weekend, and was established as a reboot of the long-running Dungog Film Festival, which has been folded in to the event.
Chair of Sculpture on the Farm, Philippa Graham, hopes the sculpture exhibition will attract new visitors to Dungog and may eventually result in a permanent sculpture walk similar to Lawson Park Sculpture Walk in Mudgee, in the NSW central west.
“We’re going to see large sculptures on the green flats and people will be able to wander down into the paddock and enjoy the sculptures,” Ms Graham said.
“They will come in through the gardens and see the smaller sculptures in the gardens and then into the underground exhibition space under the house and enjoy the indoor sculptures.”
Ms Graham hopes to attract Sydneysiders who are used to “the quirky, wonderful, challenging sculptures” of Bondi’s Sculpture By The Sea.
Sculpture walk plan to attract year-round visitors
Well-known Hunter Valley artists Robyn Stanton Werkhoven and Eric Werkhoven, collaborators for the past 30 years, have thrown their support behind the exhibition.
“I think it is very good for the area to have Philippa create something as wonderful as this, and it makes me want to come on board,” Eric Werkhoven said.
Robyn Werkhoven says she is supporting the venture “because I’m just passionate about the arts”.
“I really like to see this area, which is full of just so many artists and their studios and homes, get a boost,” she said.
Ms Graham hopes Sculpture on the Farm will give Dungog a much-needed shot in the arm by contributing to and diversifying the regional economy, which has suffered from a collapse in the dairy industry in recent times.
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Dungog-based artist Barb Ramsay, who operates a home-based studio gallery with her partner Ed Ramsay a few minutes outside of the town, says a permanent sculpture walk could provide a much-needed year-round tourist attraction.
“We need more tourists here every month, not just in the summer months,” Ms Ramsay said.
“We need to extend the season that the tourists come here and spend time, either in the river locations or looking at the mountains.”
Looking to other regional areas for guidance
Coordinator of economic development, tourism and events for Dungog Council, Ivan Skaines, said the sculpture exhibition adds another string to the bow of the Dungog Festival.
“Tourism is extremely important to Dungog and Dungog Shire’s businesses,” Mr Skaines said.
“It’s a very good way of adding money to the area, and promoting and encouraging people to come and live here as well.”
Mr Skaines said Dungog Council did not have a sculpture acquisition policy or funds allocated for a permanent sculpture walk yet, but the hurdle was not insurmountable.
“For a sculpture acquisition for a permanent exhibition, I guess funding is probably one of the main challenges,” he said.
“But that’s something that we can talk and manage over time, and the model of Mudgee is one that we could look to.”
Sculptors sharpen their tools to meet the challenge
Sculptors in the Dungog Shire have begun sharpening their tools in the lead up to the first round of entries, which close on June 1, 2018.
In the village of Vacy, sculptor Constantine Detterer is upbeat about the prospect of winning a $10,000 prize, and will enter one of his idiosyncratic sculptures made from found materials.
“It’s a great thing for the Hunter Valley,” he said.
“We get a lot of tourism here and this is even going to get it up further.
“People are loving coming to Dungog and the area. Anything that’s on we get crowds, and I certainly will be [entering]. I’m looking forward to creating something different for this sculpture festival.”
Ed Ramsay, who creates small to medium-sized totems and sculptural furniture, is also keen to enter a work in the festival.
“[At the moment] I’m working on a goanna that’s sort of coming up a pole,” he said.
“It’s a totem to sit in your garden, and it will be coming up and it looks like it’s going to devour this huge egg that’s sitting on the top of a nest.
“[The egg] is a big ceramic ball that will sit on the top of it, and I might put some lights or something like that on it, just to give it a bit of extra drama.”