Paint our Poles (PoP) Art Project to go ahead

Stella Rees,Gemma McAulay and  Kira Staheyeff painting the musical pole in Church St in November.
Stella Rees,Gemma McAulay and Kira Staheyeff painting the musical pole in Church St in November.

The Bellingen community has given a thumbs up to the Paint our Poles (PoP) Art Project, with 94 per cent of respondents behind the idea.

Back in November, a small group of students from Bellingen High School and their artistic mentors designed and decorated a power pole in Church St. 

Featuring a song about growing up in Bellingen with lyrics by Gemma McAulay and score by Rosabella Stephen, it was intended as a ‘pilot pole’ to gauge community sentiment about a project to paint most of the power poles in the main area of town.

The idea was that Bellingen could eventually have up to 50 painted power poles; in fact, every single one from the Centotaph down to the Golf Club, taking in the length of the main street and a block either side of it. 

Each painting will be unique and the themes, designs and execution will be a collaborative partnership between young people and local artists, with input from the whole community.

“The pilot gave us a big thumbs up,” Youth Hub coordinator Dean Besley said. “Something like 86 per cent said ‘yes, we love it’ and another eight per cent said ‘yes, so long as the quality is high’. The general vibe was great and it was really encouraging.”

The surveys on the @popartbello Facebook page and the council’s Create website received about 100 responses.

As well as giving the project a thumbs up or a thumbs down, people were also invited to submit comments, and 64 did.

For example:

“A great idea. More colour and art in the streets and up the poles. It goes along with the current beautification. I’ve visited a number of towns where this has happened and is delightful.”

“I am keen for any art created by local people to be featured in public spaces, walls, seats, poles etc.  I feel it will help to augment the new generic landscaping, providing a more authentic, Bellingen flavour to our public spaces.”

“More community art projects please! I believe if done properly it will bring the community together, reflect personality in our beautiful town and bring pride in our creative place ... we are not an extension of the city, we are a unique town with many different facets ...”

“The best idea in Bello for years. With all the concrete and hard surfaces making Bello look like so many other towns, the poles are a brilliant way to showcase the creativity of this town.”

“Poles are an eyesore - they are in a great position and have a great shape for interesting street art.”

“A great initiative which brings colour and life to our community.”

The pilot also served as a test run to refine ideas about safety, consumables, paints, techniques, time, resourcing, budgets and project management.

It turned out that executing a design featuring sheet music was very difficult.

“Those lines were hard to get in a circle around that pole!” Dean said. “That took a lot of time.”

Now that the project has the go ahead, the next phase is designing the artwork for the 20 poles that will be created in this cycle.

“Bellingen High School have started already – they’re designing five poles,” Dean said. “Bellingen Public school have started the process too and the other schools will join in soon.”

The general community can get also involved by attending design workshops starting next month – either at the Youth Hub or at The Brewery.

They will be run by a facilitator who will provide guidelines, background and mentoring on themes and designs.

A youth and adult workshop (12+) will be held at the Bellingen Youth Hub Art Park, Tuesdays 4pm to 6 pm for six weeks from April 10.

And an over 18s workshop will run at The Brewery on Mondays 5pm – 6:30pm from April 9 for three weeks.

What is created at the schools and via the workshops will then go before a selection committee, people who are established artists or designers, for a quality control  check.

“We’ve got a design brief,” Dean said. “Designs have to represent Bellingen, and not cause any offence, and there are certain guidelines about the size they have to be.”

However, the original idea of having unified themes for particular areas of town has been abandoned.

“That seemed quite contrived and the general feel was no, this is Bello, it needs to be a bit more organic,” Dean said. “It needs to unfold.”

The pole on Church St, featuring a song about growing up in Bellingen with lyrics by Gemma McAulay and score by Rosabella Stephen.

The pole on Church St, featuring a song about growing up in Bellingen with lyrics by Gemma McAulay and score by Rosabella Stephen.

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