McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery + Southern Way/Plenary
McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery promotes public understanding and enjoyment of Australian, modern and contemporary sculpture. We talked to their Director, Lisa Byrne about their recent partnership with the Southern Way/Plenary.
Tell us about how the partnership began.
Peninsula Link is a 25km motorway that completes missing sections of the Mornington Peninsula Freeway. Around 2010, as the road was in planning, road developer Southern Way saw the opportunity to capitalise on the Mornington Peninsula’s status as Australia’s premier region for sculptural art.
With McClelland, Australia’s leading sculptural park, essentially adjoining the freeway, a partnership was a logical way of providing motorists with an ongoing program of large-scale contemporary sculptural art while providing McClelland with an ongoing source of new pieces for 25 years.
The Victorian State Government was very supportive of the proposal, consolidating Victoria’s reputation as the cultural capital of Australia with an innovative and imaginative built environment.
It seems like such a comprehensive partnership – 25 years. Was it difficult to attain such a commitment?
The length of the project is typical for public-private partnerships and allows long-term development and commitments, including to major public sculpture.
The length of the partnership sets the Southern Way McClelland Commission apart from many one-off public art projects and was a large part of its appeal for all involved.
Since McClelland is Southern Way’s preferred artistic partner, working from the very beginning of projects, how does that deep involvement function?
As manager of Southern Way, Plenary has seen the benefits of this partnership and have involved McClelland in multiple projects.
Early involvement allows McClelland to advise on the best artistic and management approach from the outset, specific to each project.
Having a long-standing working relationship has built trust and confidence on both sides, which makes for a smooth process and successful outcome.
What have been the biggest challenges with the partnership? Do motivations and tastes always align?
All parties are motivated to procure an exciting public artwork for the benefit of commuters and the community.
As the selection panel for each sculpture is separate from the project team, we enjoy sharing our aesthetic interpretations and discussing contemporary art, as do the community.
Can you reveal any unanticipated benefits from the partnership?
Since the Southern Way McClelland Commission was established, the Mornington Peninsula has developed into a hotspot for Australian sculpture.
Numerous sculpture parks have opened in recent years, building on the success of this partnership.
The success of the partnership and the trust developed between the organisations has seen McClelland work with Plenary on other projects with opportunities to incorporate public art programs.
The partnership obviously benefits both organisations, but how have you seen the public react?
Public reaction to the sculptures is always surprising. When a new sculpture is installed, people will offer their interpretations and thoughts on the work, often getting into detailed discussions about what art is or should be.
Individuals who may not regularly visit art galleries become engaged with the work, and when a sculpture is replaced after four years, the community always takes note.
The new sculpture allows for a whole new experience and reaction, and the existing sculpture is permanently installed at McClelland; allowing the public to appreciate these works on a different level, up close and personal.
Find out more about McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery here.