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And How ...... Pacific Murals Towns Gathered in Bowen

Bowen's Magnificent Hospitality Overawes Pacific Muralists

From Monday/ Friday September 12th/ 16th 2005 international muralists gathered in Bowen for the first major 'Pacific Gathering for almost a decade. Sadly Convenor Ron Wearne, who had planned every last detail, was unable to be present because of family health concerns, but the delegates from Chemainus and Edmonton Canada, from Sheffield Tasmania, from Prestoungrange Scotland, from Foxton New Zealand and from Kurri Kurri New South Wales ... togther with myriad local artists, muralists, sculptors and musicians took the programme forward under the leadership of Bowen Murals Society President Henry Young.

To those unfamiliar with Queensland’s tropical climate and matching lifestyle, considerable adjustment is always required! But the presence of both Dr Karl Schutz, Global Association President, and fellow Canadian Lil Hardy, who when a Bowen resident had triggered the Bowen Murals Society programme 18 years before, clearly meant it was always going to be a truly significant affair. And so it was.

Click on all images throughout to enlarge

State, Federal and Bowenshire politicians were in and around at the sessions and social activities; and a very welcome Queensland State grant of $A25,000 meant much could be simultaneously accomplished at this Pacific Gathering.

The early and only substantial hitch [soon fixed] was getting the digital projector up and running at McKenna Hall where all the sessions took place; and which was also the location for a concurrent Exhibition of personal paintings by two of the town’s senior muralists – Glenn Gillard and Frances Rowland. Both were in town undertaking mural maintenance as we met; and Glenn Gillard was also creating a new mural.

Share & Compare Between Towns a Key Feature

The Gathering’s programme was deliberately kept open ended under Henry Young’s chairmanship so that all visitors could share their own town experiences and challenges.

The plenary programme began with a part-bus and part-walking tour of the town’s murals giving plenty of opportunity to explore and understand the historical tales involved. Glenn Gillard later gave a presentation with excellent slides of both the sequencing of his original creation of the RAAF Catalina Seaplane Mural and his current restoration approach to it.

One significant feature of Bowen’s Murals is the display of all the original proposals or marquettes in the town library. It is from this staring point that the weekly walking tours that are a key feature in Bowen always commence. It was excellent therefore to have David Cornwall, the town’s librarian speaking to The Gathering. He is truly a great role model for other towns to emulate and his comments showed just how vital a role he has been able le to discuss with to play.

New Members Kurri Kurri and Foxton Tell All

Presentations by Kurri Kurri’s Wendy Franklin and Foxton’s Ivan George gave all attending their first face to face opportunity to learn about these two new member towns. Whilst Foxton has been active for more than a decade and lately boasts the only fully working Dutch 17th Century windmill in the southern hemisphere, Kurri Kurri, just three years old as a murals town, already has formidable achievements with over 30 murals created and extensive community support. [The previous week they had hosted a Gala with Dr Karl Schutz as their Guest of Honour.]

Sheffield Readies for 2008 & Scotland for 2006

Sheffield Tasmania has been well known for two decades as a leading murals town, and had been an inspiration to both Foxton and Kurri Kurri. John Dyer shared Sheffield’s experiences and particularly the town’s unique Murals Fest when some 9 muralists compete for a week each March. Now in its third year it will go wholly international when Sheffield hosts the Global Murals Conference in 2008. [After Bowen’s Gathering Dr Karl Schutz was en route to Sheffield to finalise the details with its senior officers.]

Prestoungrange and Adele Conn were also able to tell their story of murals and arts development in Prestonpans since 1997; and the finalisation of their plans for the 2006 Global Conference there August 15th to 19th with a finale with the raising of the Totem Pole and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle – not to mention the inaugural Global Golf Championship at the Royal Musselburgh Club as the curtain raiser on August 15th for the Willie Park Cup.

Out and About Beyond Bowen: Workwise and Socially

There were also two significant out-of-town visits. The first was to Collinsville, sister murals town to Bowen and some 80 km inland at the heart of the area’s coal mining. The town has eight murals including two gateways, and most recently has gained $A1.4 million to create an outstanding historical indoor museum of life from the miners’ perspective, housed appropriately in the Union Clubhouse. It tells the history of tragic accidents and the town’s proud record of sending the only Communist MP ever seen in Australia to Canberra as its representative. The journey back to Bowen was enlightened by 'bush tea' amongst the kangaroos provided by the two enterprising Swiss settlers!

The second visit out of town was to neighbouring Proserpine to see the sculpture and quilting work of Denise and Adrian Vanderlugt respectively in their gallery and their workshop. They represented a wide range of talented artists from right across the spectrum of activities who are at work in the Whitsundays.

The social programme in the evenings was MC's by the Lions C and was a success every evening with excellent tucker served at an array of venues. And the final Farewell was at the Yachting Club with a delicious pig roast and heartfelt speeches of thanks from all who had attended ….. to everyone who made it possible. Amongst these was Charlie, the town’s octogenarian bus driver who has never had a speeding ticket. Charlie chauffered the delegates everywhere required at 10 kmp below any limit applicable.

And there was also an opportunity for two daytime social events. The first showed one and all the delights of the landscape in the Whitsundays with bus and seashore aplenty. The second took the delegates out onto the tranquil waters that Captain Cook had sailed and charted on Whit Sunday more than 330 years before – giving the area its name.

Conclusions for the Global Community and for Bowen

This Pacific Gathering, the first since 1986 in Kati Kati New Zealand before the Global Association was established, amongst its comprehensive achievements, set a quite new and distinctive pattern that others will surely wish to emulate as their turn comes around. They had restoration and new murals in process as the Gathering went along, according the opportunity to interact with the artists in both modes of their involvement.

....and the message from Collinsville was that museums can also tell history out loud; and raise good funding. A salutary thought for us all in the Global Association.

For Bowen at large the excitement was clear throughout. The Murals Society delighted in the fact the international and out-of-state visitors were there, discussing common issues. New members were joining locally. ABC radio carried two reports and interviews across the North Queensland Region. Local politicians confided they had not realised quite how significant their town's murals actually were to visitors, and in the wider context of the Pacific. The Society has a new spring in its step and plans to implement. The politicians agreed they could and should do more in support in the years ahead.

Organising the Gathering had certainly been a monumental challenge, but it had clearly been worthwhile.

Published Date: September 16th 2005

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