Meet Some of the New Port Macquarie Koala Family and their Artists

On 8 September when the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail opens locals and visitors to Port Macquarie alike will be able to finally see the 50 large one-metre high fibreglass koala sculptures that will dot the landscape from the Pacific Ocean and Hastings River by Port Macquarie’s CBD to the timbered hinterland of Wauchope and the national parks and waters of the Camden Haven.

This trail will be a wonderful way for everyone to explore the area and enjoy different works of art by local and interstate artists. From wineries, beaches, forests, zoos and cultural centres, these colourful Koalas will be seen in all the best places and some unlikely ones as well.

Although the Hello Koalas Sculpture project is designed to promote cultural tourism and environmental sustainability, it will be the places these endearing animals will command in people’s hearts that will make this trail special.

Already there are fifty ‘Community Champions’ who will sponsor the koala sculptures and help bring the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail to life starting from 8 September for the next fifteen months. Port Macquarie Hastings Council is also the principal Sponsor.

Artist Francessca O'Donnell with her mosaic design, called “Kalido”.

Artist Francessca O’Donnell with her mosaic design, called “Kalido”. Photo by Lindsay Moller Photography. Copyright Arts and Health Australia.

Francessca

For example local artist Francessca O’Donnell’s “mosaic” koala will be on display next to the Glasshouse, the fabulous Arts, Conference and Entertainment Centre, and highlights the strong local performing arts community.

At Bago Vineyards, Kellie Mobbs has created the AMAZE-ING Koala reflecting the maze, which is a unique new attraction at the vineyards. Then at popular Billabong Zoo you can see a koala sculpture surrounded by lots of his real koala cousins.

The beautiful flora and fauna from the local state forests that surrounds Port Macquarie Hastings region inspired Pauline Rood’s “Forest Koala” for the Forestry Corporation of NSW.

Country singer John Williamson, who is a patron of the Koala Hospital and who is also a visual artist, is painting a special koala sculpture for the trail, which will be located at the Koala Hospital.

Already there is international interest in the project – Australian artist Sophie Corcoran will soon be welcoming a koala sculpture to Paris where she will paint a design of Parisian scenes before sending it home to pride of place at the Cassegrain Winery in Port Macquarie.

As well a koala sculpture recently attended the International Arts and Health Conference in Houston Texas in April and has become part of the Texas Children’s Hospital art collection.

Background

The Hello Koalas Sculpture Project has been conceived by Arts and Health Australia, a national organisation, based in Port Macquarie. Executive Director, Margret Meagher explains: “Our organisation is dedicated to advocating the use of the arts and creativity to enhance health and wellbeing. Public art is one of the most effective ways to engage members of a community, from childhood to older age and from diverse backgrounds, and encourage interaction, participation and contribution within a community”.

Everyone loves the koala. So it was a perfect match of cultural tourism, artistic practice, research, and an Australian icon with a special local identity,” says Margret Meagher. “We are fortunate to have the largest koala population on the east coast of Australia, together with the world’s only Koala Hospital and the Billabong Zoo, with its accredited international koala breeding program.”

“But we see the Hello Koalas project as a great way of bringing the community together. For example, we have designed an Art, Poetry and Dementia program, which fosters creative collaborations between school children and older people and life size koala sculptures.

“Our local Member of Parliament Leslie Williams is committed to making our region more accessible for people with dementia and their carers, and the idea of creating a design for one of our koalas took shape. A phone call to Melbourne artist Kerry Smith-Taughkin, who works with people with Alzheimer’s, commenced the creative process and now we have Kerry’s beautiful design for one of our 50 koala sculptures. Hopefully, it will help demystify the perceptions that people have around dementia and will look beautiful in its picturesque foreshore location.

“Hello Koalas Project Manager, Linda Hall is equally excited about the project. “With a 23-year career in tourism, I am excited by what the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail can deliver to the region in terms of attracting international and national visitors as well as encouraging locals to explore their own backyard.

“And we are certainly proud that the design for our koala sculptures represents a true blue “Port Macquarie koala”, thanks to the specialist input from Cheyne Flanagan from the Koala Hospital, who was quick to point out to us the difference in the physical appearance of koalas from Victoria and Queensland and Port Macquarie. What’s more, the Hello Koalas sculptures are not just ‘Made in Australia’ – they are ‘Made in NSW’.