Splashes of flood-inspired public art across Clarence

Flooding can mean devastating loss and ongoing hardship. But it can also be a time when communities demonstrate a spirit of enormous resilience and unity.

To mark the significance of the 2022 floods for the Clarence Valley region, local artists were commissioned to create a series of public artworks.

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PICTURED: Nationally recognised local artist Al Stark painted four sentinels overlooking the Clarence River on the pylons under the new Harwood Bridge adjacent to Yamba Road.

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PICTURED: Renowned local street artist ‘Nitsua’ created the mural on the recently completed Lawrence Water Tower.

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PICTURED: Sue Mackey’s plywood panel artwork is one of 20 produced for the Prince Street planter boxes.

The $100,000 project was funded by a one-off NSW Government grant targeted at Northern Rivers councils for activities that commemorate the February-March 2022 flood events.

“The challenge for this project was it had to be delivered quickly,” Clarence Valley Council General Manager Laura Black said. “Other similar projects can take up to 18 months from start to finish. This was a unique opportunity that was offered to us with targeted funds rather than the usual application process, which meant we had a four-month deadline to complete the project.

“The Lawrence Water Tower and Harwood Bridge pylons had both been previously identified in community consultation as ideal locations for public artworks. So when this grant was offered we were fortunate to already have these suitable locations ready to go.

“It’s great to now see these landmarks come to life with such incredible works of art.”

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PICTURED: Jeff Smith’s colourful commentary of flood times in Grafton is one of the 20 panels painted for the Prince Street planter boxes.

In May an open invitation was sent via Council’s social media and Noticeboard newsletter to all artists in the Clarence Valley to participate in the project. Both murals and all 20 panels were completed by July.

Council worked with Transport for NSW through the approval process for the bridge pylon artworks, with local artist Al Stark selected to paint the iconic location due to his level of experience and proven reliability to deliver a high standard on budget and within a timeframe. The four sentinels represent the local fish, birds, animals and plants.

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PICTURED: The four murals on the Harwood Bridge pylons by Al Stark.

Meanwhile Nitsua, who also recently painted the mural of late Yaegl elder Uncle Ron Heron, painted the Lawrence Water Tower, which was upgraded by Council in 2022. Students at Lawrence Public School helped conceptualise ideas for the mural, which depicts “a child gazing up towards the moon with the vibrant plumage of the Rainbow Lorikeet soaring through the valley creating trails of rainbow dust and a symbol of the eternal flow of the powerful Clarence River winding through the valley out to sea”.

VIDEO: Simon Hughes Photography

The Lawrence Water Tower artwork has already caught the attention of the popular Australian Silo Art Trail website, putting the Clarence Valley on the map for many interstate travellers.

“The water tower is yet another fantastic attraction to pull travellers off the highway and into the hinterland,” Ms Black said. “Our Tourism team often field calls from interstate travellers asking whether the Clarence Valley has any silo or water tower art, so it’s great to now be able to tell them that we do.

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PICTURED: A Rainbow Lorikeet leaves a trail of rainbow dust in the Lawrence Water Tower mural by Nitsua.

Meanwhile the sentinels under the bridge are another fantastic drawcard for the Lower Clarence.

“For locals, hopefully this collection of artistic chronicles of the 2022 flood event helps to further develop shared identity, collective memory and connection to place,.

Click here for more information on how public art is managed to participate in the Clarence Valley

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