Adelong, Batlow, Tumbarumba and Tooma played host to the community launch of a new era in the cultural heritage of the region, the Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail, on Saturday and Sunday.
The Community Celebration Day began at Adelong in the morning, at the sight of Osamu and Masako Ohnishi’s Usagi Shelter at Adelong Creek. As well as many people integral to the establishment of the trail, the Riverina Light Horse Troop provided atmosphere and historical perspective.
Councillor and Adelong resident James Hayes, who has been instrumental in getting the Sculpture Trail to the region, talked about its international significance.
“This Sculpture Trail that is evolving in the Snowy Valleys will feature world-class artists in a world class setting,” he said.
“Make no mistake, this will give Adelong and the rest of the trail a toehold in the world of sculpture. You won’t see a Jimmy Moore, Louise Bourgeois or Richard Serra; however you may see the next big thing on the art scene; you never know.”
He said the sculptures will evoke numerous emotions, some positive, some contrary.
“But importantly, they will generate discussion and bring visitors to our area,” he said.
The launch then moved south to Batlow where the Literary Institute provided a welcome shelter from the chilly outdoors.
Founding CEO of the Sculpture Trail and Sculptures by the Sea David Handley paid tribute to Batlow’s Max Gordon Hall for his vital input into the trail.
Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr said the trail was globally significant and a symbol to Aussies getting back on their feet.
“In no place is this more true than here in Batlow,” he said, in reference to the town’s recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires.
He referenced some of the debate, mainly playing out on social media, about the merits of the sculptures and their suitability to the area.
“Australians like an argument,” he said.
Margaret Sedgwick said the trail had “taken us out of our environment and connected us with the world.”
“It has supported our small steps to recovery and our hope for the future of our town,” she said.
The Community Day moved on to Tumbarumba where everyone gathered at the Creekscape.
Mr Handley admitted that the trail was not what he originally wanted, as he had wanted all the sculptures in one place.
“I started to speak to locals and having them (the sculptures) in one location was not well received,” he said.
“They said ‘can we make a trail?’.”
Tumbarumba resident Maryanne Marshall said it was a wonderful day for residents of the Snowy Valleys.
“You might ask what sculptures have to do with bushfires or local economic recovery but you only have to look at the success of other art or culture-led initiatives that have revived country towns and put them on the tourist map for the world to see,” she said.
“Sheffield, the mural town of Tasmania, or the silo towns of the wheat belt where people flock in droves to view the wonderful paintings.
She said art was an interesting thing in that it invariably invokes an emotional response of either “I love it” or “I hate it.”
“Both points of view are valid and as an artwork, it has been successful in that it has created as response,” she said.
“A sculpture that makes you curious about what it’s about, or what it’s made of or how it’s made or what the sculptor is trying to say, is creating a dialogue and interacting with the viewer.”