Looking at—and Celebrating—Ourselves
This week, after last Friday’s Katherine Street Art celebration, here at Godinymayin we have public art on our mind. When a community changes it’s mundane built environment—by adding sculpture, murals, or creative elements—it can transform sense of place. The recent public art in Katherine is made to celebrate local identity, document history, and engage people in new ways. And the most current buzzword for this kind of enhancement of civic space is “creative placemaking.” Over the past few years, our town has been doing in left and right.
Have a look around, and then imagine what our local environments would be like without the work of Katherine Regional Arts, Activate Katherine, Proper Creative, Katherine Town Council, and the dozens of artists involved. The lack of public art keeps a place plain, boring, and much less colourful. They have decided to change that.
A few years ago, Council’s CBD Revitalisation project set out to create vibrant outdoor spaces along Railway Terrace, and it’s given us an art gallery on the streets. Look a little closer at the many murals in town, and they’ll teach you about the leaders of the Jawoyn land claim for the 1989 hand back of the Nitmiluk National Park; the horrible Katherine floods in 1998; and the incredible journey of Nida Low. You’ll find road trains and water buffalo; the creative legacy of Balang T.E. Lewis; the heroism of the Alawa man known as Neighbour; and the legacy of beloved former Mayor Fay Miller. Beneath the paint on the surface, there is a deep richness of people, stories, and community.
All of their histories, have helped shape our community and the unique identity of modern-day Katherine. Thanks to the artists and organisations who support creative placemaking in the Northern Territory, our town is far from plain or boring.
There are many players, artists, businesses, and organisations involved in the current focus on public art and placemaking. It’s not just about murals. They bring us street festivals, heritage events, interesting sculpture, solar-powered cinema, food truck roundups, and so much more. Imagine our sense of place without their work—without colourful walls, live music in the park, collective conversations about who we are and what we want to be.
The Australian art historian Robert Hughes had a lot to say about this kind of use for art and creative placemaking:
“The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning.”
Our small team at Godinymayin is thinking more about public art and creative placemaking—and with a nod to Hughes, how it brings us together. We are grateful to those who change our community for the better and use art to reflect and celebrate who we are. They take the feelings we have as a community and convert them to diverse, powerful, and beautiful meaning. Have a look around Katherine, and you’ll know what I’m talking about—then celebrate people, place, and history with us.
— Eric Holowacz
Chief Executive Officer