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The ‘Canal to Creek’ Public Art Program

Completed: 2020
Client: WestConnex

The Canal to Creek Public Art Program is a series of eighteen commissioned artworks across Sydney’s inner west suburbs from St Peters to Beverly Hills curated and delivered by Cultural Capital. The program includes contemporary sculptures, artist-designed playgrounds, a writer’s walk, murals and immersive lighting installations that activate new and existing parklands along the new M8. The artists included in the program are a diverse mix of local, international, emerging and established contemporary artists including first nations and multicultural perspectives and artists working with a disability.  

Each work is a site-specific exploration of the relationship between people and place. Individually the works tell a unique story of place and community. Gordon Young’s brick sculptures evoke the historic brick industry and iconic chimneys on Princes Highway. Mike Hewson’s climbable Fences Playground recreates front fences of St Peters, celebrating the cultural references and migrant histories embedded in these forms while offering a space for play. Eminent local street artist Matthew Peet aka Mistery and Michael Lothian (Jesta) depicts key buildings from past, present and future Kingsgrove, documenting the changing urban landscape and transformations in place and culture. In some way, all of the eighteen Canal to Creek artists pick up on a cultural thread that supports local identity, belonging and wellbeing while creating an extraordinary experience of place.  

This curated collection dispersed across a large geographic area is connected by water: Sheas Creek, now Alexandra Canal, at the eastern end of the program and Wolli Creek at the western end are both part of the same water system that is linked by the Cooks River and Botany Bay. The natural environment and how it has shaped our experience of the area is a recurring theme for Canal to Creek artists. Warren Langley’s Wolli re-interprets the Creek into an experiential underpass lighting sculpture and captures the beauty of sunlight reflecting on ripples. Studio A’s Emily Crockford is inspired by the ecological abundance and diversity supported by the waterways, the birds, fish, yabbies and oysters. Interdisciplinary artist Nicole Monks’ waranggu : Rainbow pays respect to the Water People Local Mob who spent much time on the water, particularly women, fishing, hunting and gathering. Her tactile sculpture is the colours of waranggu (rainbow) and weaves through Forrester Reserve, it’s flowing form connecting water, sky, wind and wildlife.  

Together, the eighteen works in the collection combine, leading toward a transformation of the parklands into a cultural landscape. This considers the Indigenous experience of being on Country. Adam King honours the important history of Bidjigal hero Pemulwuy the Rainbow Warrior through sculpture. The artist draws on the knowledge and memory of Traditional Owners to champion Pemulway’s campaign of resistance, inspiring artworks that give meaning to current and future generations.  

At St Peters Interchange where six hectares of new parklands have been built, artists whose work invites interaction have been chosen to create a new cultural experience of place. Gill GatfieldGreg JohnsStephen KingAndrew Rogers and Yioryios are each commissioned to create a significant sculpture for the site that has a participatory element; the works are activated and animated, sometimes dramatically, as you move around or through them. Perception is challenged and negative space, light and movement interact to transform the visual experience of the work. This permanent contemporary sculpture park in St Peters will be a significant addition to Sydney’s city art collection.  

Canal to Creek will also be part of the regeneration and revitalization of existing parklands along the M5 Linear Park between Bexley Road and King Georges Road. These works create vibrant, fun and whimsical portals to Linear Park. Deborah HalpernHanna HoyneChristina Huynh (Styna)Tom Misura and Dan Templeman are commissioned to create works that encourage play and feelings of surprise and delight within urban parkscapes. As Huynh says “The idea of the work is to convey that ‘Fantastic worlds’ aren’t so far from our day to day – when one seeks it, there are actually things happening all around.”  

Vibrant, liveable places need art: it’s the lifeblood of community that nourishes and empowers citizenry. Delivered as a community legacy project under The Canal to Creek Public Art Program contributes a significant and ongoing cultural benefit to the local residents of St Peters, Bexley, Kingsgrove and Beverly Hills by increasing community engagement with the arts, delivering a dynamic and innovative program that activates parklands, inviting contemplation, interaction and exploration, and supporting local identity, belonging and wellbeing. 

You can learn more about the Canal to Creek Public Art Program via the Canal to Creek Education Portal.




Featured images:

1. Dan Templeman, Eight Rings, Linear Park, Beverly Hills

2. Nicole Monks, waranggu : Rainbow, Linear Park, Beverly Hills

3. Mike Hewson, St Peters Fences Playground, Simpson Park, St Peters

4. Warren Langley, Wolli, Kindilian Underpass Beverly Hills

5. Emily Crockford, Oysters Eating Rainbows, Karingal Underpass, Kingsgrove

6. Christina Huynh (Styna), Fantastic Worlds, Lundy Underpass, Kingsgrove