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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

There has been lots of discussion about a proposal for a new artwork relating to COVID-19 on the Northern Beaches Coast Walk. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the project:

What has been agreed?

Council has endorsed the commissioning of: a permanent artwork to a minimum of $100,000, funded from the allocated Merger Savings Fund, to be included as part of the Coast Walk; to remember, as a narrative, how the Northern Beaches community responded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such a project may also consider additional funding opportunities with donations from the community.

It is part of a broader resolution which also includes exploring opportunities for a mass exhibition of work created by Northern Beaches artists to be held on the same day late in 2020 and an investigation of the feasibility of a series of community performances/concerts/films to celebrate the opening of venues and the lifting of restrictions.

You can see the full resolution on page 17 of the Council minutes. 

Why now?

The proposal was presented as a way to support the local arts community at the time when many in the creative community have lost jobs and livelihoods and many are ineligible for the federal government’s Jobkeeper program.

Council is supporting other sectors of the community impacted by the pandemic through the Business Support package, Community Care Package and through our grants programs

Where is the funding coming from?

In 2016, Council’s Administrator created a Merger Savings Fund to set aside former Council operational funds to capture efficiency savings achieved by the amalgamation of three former councils. Projects were identified and endorsed to be delivered with these funds including public art on the Northern Beaches Coast Walk.

The Northern Beaches Coast Walk Public Art Strategy that was unanimously endorsed by Council in May 2019, nominates 20 sites for public art along the walk. The budget allocation to each art installation site will be identified as each site is scoped and artist briefs are developed. The COVID-19 inspired artwork would be located at one of those 20 sites.    

Council has resolved that the final expenditure be brought back to Council for its consideration and endorsement.

What is the process for commissioning and choosing the artwork?

The steps to selecting an artwork include:

  1. Council’s Public Art Working Group, whose role is to provide Council with advice on matters pertaining to public art, develops a scope and brief for each artwork and site.
  2. The brief is then published and artists are invited to submit proposals as an Expression of Interest (EOI).
  3. Council’s Public Art Selection Panel, made up of eminent independent experts with extensive experience in the commissioning of public art, review and make recommendations on the artists' submissions.
  4. A report with recommendations is brought back to the Council for consideration and endorsement.

Will it be a giant germ statue on the beach like I’ve seen in the media?

No. The intent of the project is to use art to mark a moment in time and acknowledge how the community came together to support each other during the pandemic. No specific design or artwork has been chosen and it is unlikely that such a design would be acceptable.

Have you cut infrastructure spending to fund this project?

No, Council resolved three years ago to fund artworks on the Coast Walk from the Merger Savings Fund and in May 2019 adopted a Plan to bring that to fruition. The type of artworks and the themes expressed are yet to be determined.

Council’s 2020/21 budget is on public exhibition until Sunday 7 June. It includes less than forecast spending on infrastructure due to the impact of COVID-19 on the Council budget. However, it still allocates $92million to community infrastructure such as new footpaths, roads, surf clubs and pool upgrades and ongoing maintenance and renewals. Review the budget and have your say. 

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