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September 30th 2009
Harbour artwork: you can still see the artist's plans

Madonna Rhodes with the display at the HSB markets Over the last weekend, at the Friday night Market and at the Bay Days Mega Market at Horseshoe Bay, two competing concept plans for a major public artwork commemorating Magnetic Island's involvement in the Solar Cities project - to be installed at Nelly Bay Harbour - were revealed.

Since the winning concept is yet to be decided upon the display attracted strong interest and excitement among those who saw them. But for a project with an overall, publically-funded, budget of $130,000, planned for a site near the entrance to the harbour, and, therefore, to be a major first impression of Magnetic Island, it seemed clear that many more locals should view what is proposed, comment on the concepts and state their preferences.

One of the concepts was designed by Townsville and Ayr based artists Margot Douglas and Claudia Williams and the other by Sydney based artist Graham Chalcroft working with Townsville's Jane Hawkins. In the display however the works were presented anonymously so as to avoid favouritism in feedback and public comment.

After prompting from Magnetic Times the Project Manager, Ms Madonna Rhodes from the Public Art Unit of Queensland's Department of Public Works organised that the concept proposals now be displayed at the MI Solar Cities Smart Lifestyle Centre (formerlly the MI Sports and Rec Club at Horseshoe Bay) until this coming Monday. The display will be viewable through the windows at the rear entrance to the building so interested Islanders can still get to see it for themselves over the weekend.

The plans, as seen on the display, were actually the result of a graphic artist's distillation of material submitted by the artists - down to two A2 sized sheets. Unfortunately this resulted in crowded imagery and some very small text. Some text was also cropped out with a sentence uncompleted. The competing entries were therefore somewhat more dependent upon the Project Manager's understanding and interpretive abilities for the public to get a clear understanding.

Not that public feedback or preferences will actually decide the selection. This will be made by the Public Art Committee convened for the project which includes Madonna Rhodes, the Office of Clean Energy and representation from Ergon Energy's Solar Cities. Their decision then goes to the Art + Place the Queensland Government's Public Art Unit for final endorsement. Madonna Rhodes says the public's response, “will be considered within a weighted criteria”. This may be appreciated in terms of the technical limitations of the very exposed site - along the path from the terminal towards Bright Point and in front of Mantra and the “hole in the ground”.

The site selected for the public artwork

The selection of the site is apparently based on what land was available from what the government controls and although many have expressed preferences for other sites such as the harbour breakwall, which is presently to undergo a landscaping facelift, according to Madonna Rhodes the exposure to the elements is even greater there than at the selected area..

Magnetic Times sought to post detailed images of the plans for all to view and comment on with ease. However from discussions with Ms Rhodes we learned that the artist's were concerned to protect their intellectual property and, that by having their ideas posted to the Internet, their work might be cut and pasted by unscrupulous artists for other projects.

Whilst Magnetic Times accepts that this is a possibility we are disappointed that such interesting and engaging creative ideas cannot be more openly engaged in and see this as a shortcoming in the process. The artists, although paid for the concepts they have developed so far, should, we think be paid more in this regard so as to compensate for the possible loss of their original ideas. After all it is to be a public artwork and this process of feedback to the community should be foremost.

With an overall budget of $130,000 it is worth noting that about $90,000 is intended for fabrication costs, $5,000 for the artists and the rest in administration fees for the government's Project Managers.

Respecting the artist's wishes, as communicated to us, Magnetic Times is refraining from descriptions of the works, suffice to say that both have impressive qualities and demonstrate some innovative technologies. One has a strong Magnetic Island socio-historical focus with some high-tech solar thermal features while the other marries biological forms with a sun related apparatus. Both are self illuminating and will present very different qualities at night.

We urge all interested Island residents and regular visitors to visit the Solar Cities Centre on Horseshoe Bay Road before Monday and see for themselves what is proposed. We know how important first impressions are and, whichever artwork succeeds, the outcome will become a major focus for all to see approaching our often less than admired harbour.

Story correction (as of 2/10/09): Since this story was prepared it has been brought to our attention that funding for the project has a more complex breakdown than that indicated above. Firstly, the artists from both teams are paid $3,000 for the concept development. Then, once the successful team has been decided, a further $5,000 is paid as a design development fee. Following that, the artist receives a fee for the commissioning stage. This sum varies depending on the artist's experience and calibre and is usually determined as a percentage of the fabrication costs ranging from 10 to 15 percent. The fabrication budget for this project is around $90,000. Further, whatever fabrication work the artists undertake themselves is also paid to them from the fabrication budget. There are further sums from the total project budget of $130,000 also set aside for extra consultant fees such as for site engineers and geo-technical reports, documentation, site plaque, and educational material. After these costs are deducted the Public Art Unit derives its fee for project management throughout the course of the project.

Story & photos: George Hirst

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Harbour artwork: you can still see the artist's plans
Lorna Hempstead
September 30th 2009
Have viewed both proposals in some detail on Sunday, I commend both sets of artists for thoughtful and appropriate presentations.
One could only be sited at Bright Point, as it reflects on the history of just that area, the other – though clever could fit anywhere on the Island. To me this begs the question that with all that development work done, how can we find the extra money to install both – with perhaps one in Picnic Bay where there is plenty of room and a need to find visitor attractors to that location.
As an aside I look at the “artists fee” of $5,000. These are freelance workers – who from fees must meet their own superannuation, public liability & professional indemnity insurances, cover themselves for sick pay etc. Divide the fee by 2 (two artists in each team) take off 25% for those overhead costs and each gets $1875 barely more than 1% of the total money allocated to the project. I would estimate that each artist will give the equivalent of at least 8 weeks work to such a project. I had understood that it was government policy for artists to be properly remunerated; even if each project was a single artist this is clearly no longer the case. When will we value our artists as we do our sportsmen?

What do you think? Send us your comments.

Readers comments
suemac In reply to Fair raises $15,000 for school
Well done everyone! Once again our fabulous community had a great day out and raised funds for a deserving cause - pat on back to all.
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