Following a major outcry from the community over the proposed huge sandstone art work set for Mona Vale Headland, Mayor Michael Regan announced today he’ll be working to bring the controversial project to a halt…

When images of the proposed art work for Mona Vale Headland went up on the Northern Beaches Living Facebook Group last week, there was one of the largest outcries from the community we’ve ever witnessed in the Group. One member even called the piece “outright vandalism”.

The proposed artwork is one of many approved for the Northern Beaches Coast Walk which will stretch from Manly to Palm Beach with the public artworks dotted along the coastline. This particular ‘sculpture’ however, gauging from the 100s of outraged responses, is not what the community were expecting – and apparently not what they want.

According to Northern Beaches Council, the giant sandstone sculpture to be created by Australian contemporary art duo Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro is to be fabricated from durable sandstone blocks that spell out the phrase ‘You Are Here X’. The text-based sculpture apparently references “the loving signs placed on Barrenjoey Road for friends and family on special occasions” as well as “the dramatic sandstone formations of the Northern Beaches.” It was described as “a whimsical and interactive artwork… that can also be used as informal seating or play space.”

However, the community was quick to point out that the proposed artwork was not at all fitting for the natural beauty of the space (and those were the kinder comments!). Many even asked if it were a joke or April Fool’s Day.

“You know what “locates” me in the park – lots of green space, dogs and kids running around and playing, looking at the ocean. I don’t need it spelt out with sandstone blocks that can only be read if I am in a plane flying overhead. Surely this is someone’s idea of a joke,” wrote Angela Counsel.

“I’ll add some more negatives,” wrote Amanda Merhab, “other than the obvious eyesore… it’s removing actual play space and how will they mow the area?… will be covered in tall grass between the lettering. i think they want to appeal to drones and effluencers.”

Sarah Cass wrote that the proposed piece made her feel as though “I’m being talked to like I’m stupid.”

“It’s outright vandalism,” responded Cara Manson. “I know art is subjective but this is just completely obnoxious, wasteful (of both public money and public space) and offensive. If you’re going to take a huge chunk of green space and do something to it, make it useful  – like an accessible playground or remembrance space or something so that people other than those wanting to create content with their drones can bloody use it.”

Image: via https://www.facebook.com/MayorMichaelRegan

One of the most well thought out responses came from Geoff Horsnell. “Taking one step back and giving the proposal a commonsense review my first questions are what is it’s connection to the Northern Beaches, Mona Vale and the Headland? Does it add anything to the ambience of this location. Does it reflect its history recent and ancient? Or is it a thought bubble over a latte and Chardonnay at lunch one day. We walk the Headland almost every second day. It’s peaceful, quiet, accessible and with the recent updates, safer. We take our binoculars to spot any whales, It’s a one way street with maximum three parking spaces at the end. The former Stedman family home is adjacent to the park. Regularly people walk the walkway on their way north or south. Some people exercise their dogs, unfortunately occasionally off leash. The tradies have lunch there. The racing pigeon clubs use this release spot to train their pigeons.

To the creators of this idea, come down during the week and talk to the residents and the users. Read the plaque about the Japanese Submarine, call into the Mona Vale library history section, look at the photos and stories. Drive up to the Bungan Beach Headland, take a look at the Bungan Castle, then the next headland at the end of Queen Street and take in the enormous reef and the splitting of the seas north and south. Did you know during WWII the trench protecting the Peninsula from tank attack was located adjacent to this Headland across Barrenjoey Rd. That the nearby hill is called Bushrangers Hill. That the Zoo owned and farmed the nearby land to feed the animals. That the Yugoslav families owned and subdivided the adjacent valley. Then sit down and rethink your idea. As it is it’s not going to “get up.”

It was Belle Oniele who asked the question we all wanted to know the answer to: “So many people picnic in this area all year round to watch the sunrise and sunset, watch the night sky and star gaze, whale watching, exercise, meditation. What a shame we are unable to leave anything untouched these days. Do the people of Mona Vale and the Northern Beaches, who I assume are funding this, even get a say in this?”

It seems we do – with Mayor Michael Regan responding to the community with a breaking news post today:

 

“URGENT UPDATE RE PROPOSED MONA VALE HEADLAND ART PROJECT‼️
I will be moving a Mayoral Minute at the next Council meeting to formally stop the progress of this proposed art work.
I have asked the CEO (late last week) to inform Councillors of the process to bring this to a complete halt, and to ask for options for a review of the way Public Art is chosen and more importantly consulted with our Local community.
Public Art is important however it is critical that it gains broad support such as the Freshwater headland project. A Councillor briefing is due this Tuesday night and I expect all Councillors will want to discuss this issue with staff.
I will add that a number of Councillors, myself included were not involved in the final decision, however we all have a responsibility to reflect on this process and ensure it is more transparent in the future and engages the community earlier.
We need to take onboard the feedback from the public and find a better way to engage.

Talking to a number of people over the weekend, the one thing that stopped me in my tracks was a particular resident explaining the relationship this proposal had with her and a close relative who had fallen from the headland and died. The lady was visibly upset and gave some compelling reasons over and above the aesthetics of the project. I appreciated her time and sentiments as I do for all those that have written to us.”

Northern Beaches Council have also been in touch with some background: At the Council Meeting of 22 November 2022, the matter was dealt with under confidential session. The council resolved to enter a contract with S. Cordeiro and C. Healy to deliver a public artwork at Mona Vale Headland as part of the Coast Walk Public Art Strategic Plan. Details about the contract are commercial in confidence between the supplier and Council
.

“Public artworks along our Coast Walk aim to capture the cultural and historical significance of an area. We recognise working closely with our community is an important aspect of this project,” says Northern Beaches CEO Ray Brownlee. 

“We are currently reviewing community feedback on this project and encourage the community to visit the project page on Council’s Your Say for updates.”

The proposed meet the artist session this Friday 24 February 2023 will not proceed at this time as it is understood that Council will be considering this matter at its next meeting on Tuesday 28 February 2023.

You can also follow the Mayor’s page here for updates – and we look forward to keeping you posted on this one too via the Northern Beaches Living page – click here to follow. 

Main image: via Northern Beaches Council 
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