Dandenong-Creek-cultural-trail 2021 Ian Harrison Spreading the Message
Dandenong-Creek-cultural-trail 2021 Ian Harrison Spreading the Message

An image of colourfully painted tree stumps in the green grass along the Dandenong Creek: a public artwork by Ian Harrison.

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Dr Vicki Couzens and Robert Young yarning at the creek
Dr Vicki Couzens and Robert Young yarning at the creek

Artists Vicki and Robert yarning about cultural frameworks and making public art on Country. They are sitting near the creek in this film still.

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Relationality and respect are essential core values central to the ethical commissioning of public art, particularly when making work on unceded sovereign territories. All too often, well-meaning commissioners of Indigenous public art are restricted by procurement policies and procedures that may sit in stark conflict with Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Doing and Being – resulting in often untended colonial consequences or racism, appropriation and exploitation of Indigenous artists and cultural knowledge. In this presentation, we reflect on the development of the Dandenong Creek Public Art Trail, which centred the creation of relational knowledge through deep engagement and partnership with a range of stakeholders over time.  

Originally invited to ‘externally evaluate’ the public art trail, we instead focused on capacity building, through growing relationships, trust, mentorship and facilitation after recognising the gaps in resourcing and knowledge required to realise the project vision. Creating this relational space of respect enabled the 7 artists to be culturally supported to develop their artistic projects. This year-long engagement brought together 7 Indigenous artists, 4 Elders, Wurundjeri and Bunurong Land Councils, and Local Government workers at The City of Greater Dandenong and Yarra Ranges Regional Council resulting in strong reciprocal relationships that will far outlive project outcomes.   

  • Large scale projects like these can build

  • broader capabilities through  

  • development of cultural frameworks with Traditional Custodians;  

  • selection processes that transparently privilege Traditional Custodian artists,  

  • growing the Indigenous public art sector (self determination) 

  • and supportive approaches to engaging Indigenous artists by ensuring 

  • cultural safety through Indigenous curators and producers to support  

  • appropriate contracting to enable fair and timely pay 

  • value IP and ICIP ownership

 

For more information, see a recent interview with Vicki and Marnie here.