“Stop walking all over me” graffiti footpath text on Marine Terrace, Geraldton https://www.google.com/maps/place/Geraldton+WA+6530,+Australia/
Art in Geraldton’s public realm is found in galleries, museums, artist studios, and the street. It is on buildings, in foyers, recreation parks, laneways, alcoves, parking lots, festivals and markets. And it is in schools, university or TAFE centres, hospitals, out on the highways, or in nearby Greenough and Mullewa.
Go on an adventure and have fun looking for the art. Follow the stories, and think about map-making. An account of Bimarra the serpent and how the land was formed can be read on the interpretative signs out at Ellendale Pool and Walkaway. Likewise, the rock art of the Yamaji people of the Ngaaguja, Wilunyu, Wajarri, Nhanda, Badimia and Western Desert language groups celebrate the first-ever art galleries in this region.
In contemporary art interpretations on the foreshore, notably Ilgarijiri (things that belong to the sky), Yamaji artists show some of the many storylines of country. Further along, the layering of this history is presented by another artwork, The sea meets the shore.
On the waterfront, a kinetic sculpture moves in strong winds. Referring to Midwest climatic conditions, Zephyr II playfully calls-up a mythic resemblance to far away Mediterranean shorelines.
A nearby statue, curiously cast from local peoples’ body parts to assemble a bronze figure, commemorates the traumatic experiences of Wiebbe Hayes, the first European visitor to these shores. This Dutch soldier-sailor arrived in Western Australian waters on the tragic Batavia voyage of 1629, and survived shipwreck, mutiny, and murder.
Maps are peculiar things. This one displays artworks and an art route.
A gridded chart (based on a 1622 map of the Abrolhos Islands) is part of a Sentinel figure, which gazes out to sea while standing guard at the front of the Police Complex. The map ‘wing’ at the sculpture’s back casts a shadow on the wall of a building owned by the merchant Pat Stone from 1889, (alongside the old Railway Hotel site c1901 / Sunseeker Hotel 1971-1999).
These represent the wide range of art in the city, many of which are the result of civic initiatives like the Percent for Art schemes, or local government, business, and community projects that have contributed to our cultural narratives.
Sentinel, while remarking on the past crime scene of the Batavia, acknowledges contemporary policing duties while accumulating its own crime stories. Its head was stolen (in 2001 by a young local), lost, replaced (by a second head), and then found in the Greenough area. The first head has now been relocated on to a sculpture in Butler, a suburb of Perth.
On our art trail are many examples of mosaics, urban (street) art, trench art (made during WWII), church wall murals, civic memorials, and infrastructure art on the sidewalks, bus stops, and roundabouts.
But there is no continuous history of artwork as such. They are not naturally connected, and exist in their different situations across time.
Writing on surfaces in the street without permission, graffiti has its own cultural history and has strongly influenced modern art styles. A renewed visibility occurred alongside protest, murals, and poster art internationally.
Murals on walls, created by local teachers, students, and artists for schools since the early 1980s, are community orientated. Public Art as formal civic artwork commissions largely came about at this time.
The Geraldton city status fountain sculpture, unveiled in late 1988 by the then–director of the Western Australian Art Gallery, Betty Churcher AO, referenced the environment: hewn rocks quarried from Moonyoonooka, and a spiral of life in the flow of water along the cast iron element that returned to a pool below. Located in the Queens Park Theatre gardens, where Queen Elizabeth II launched Geraldton as a City on 22 April of that year, it looked to a new era.
Since the 1990s initiatives across the city have enabled more art to be displayed. All of this contributes to the sociality of living in a landscape made dynamic both by history and urbanisation.
Acknowledgement: Thanks go to all the artists whose work adds to the cultural topography of the city, and to the staff and community members who have helped facilitate the research: especially Heritage Services at the Geraldton Regional Library; Visual Arts at TAFE and Pollinators; and the City of Greater Geraldton Community Grants Program.
MAPS CAN BE PURCHASED FROM: Geraldton Regional Art Gallery, Geraldton Visitor Centre, Western Australian Museum – Geraldton, Old Geraldton Gaol & Craft Centre, Latitude Gallery, Baker Williamson Studios, Foreshore Backpackers, Pollinators – CityHive, Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre, Drummond Cove Holiday Park.