31 August 2023

Arts festival yields a lasting legacy for Coolamon

| Chris Roe
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man, woman and sculpture

Andrew Whitehead and wife Daphne with his latest sculpture, Playing for Keeps. Photo: Supplied.

Riverina metal artist Andrew Whitehead has finally unveiled his latest commission, Playing for Keeps, at the launch of Coolamon’s Yield Festival at the iconic UP2Date Store.

The metal sculpture, which captures four life-size characters engaged in a contentious game of marbles, was commissioned by Coolamon Shire Council and will soon occupy a permanent spot in the Main Street.

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“I jumped at the idea of the marble game because I thought that would give me a lot of room to move in terms of personalities of the characters and movement of the characters,” the Urana-based artist explained at the Yield Festival’s gala opening.

sculpture surrounded by artworks

More than 450 works were entered in this year’s UP2Date Art Prize. Photo: Sam Bowker.

The sculpture takes pride of place in the centre of the UP2Date Store amid more than 450 entries in this year’s art prize, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, and an extensive photographic exhibition.

The Yield Festival runs from 25 August to 2 October showcasing local creativity, and Friday’s launch included live entertainment under the stars with a crowd of about 500 on hand to celebrate.

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Coolamon Shire Mayor David McCann said it was amazing to see how much the event had grown in just three years.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable, it’s the most entries we’ve seen in the art and photography sections and of course, all credit to the committee that put this together and all the hard work from a great bunch of volunteers,” he said.

“We’re pretty proud of it and I hope that people come and visit!”

crowd at art festival launch

Locals and visitors enjoy the Yield Festival’s gala opening. Photo: Supplied.

He explained that Andrew Whitehead had supported the event and exhibited works since the art exhibition began and the shire was proud to invest in his unique brand of sculpture.

“We’re very mindful that when you do something like public art, it has to make sense to the community,” Cr McCann said.

“Coolamon has a bit of a reputation as a quaint, older-looking town and we had a visitor once who made a comment about how Coolamon reminded them of a d’Arcy Doyle painting with the dusty streets and kids playing.

“Andrew took that idea away and came up with the idea of kids from about 50 or 60 years ago playing a game of marbles and council fell in love with the idea.”

girl looking at sculpture

Darla wants her marble back! Photo: Chris Roe.

Online followers of Andrew’s work have been watching Playing for Keeps take shape over the past eight months.

“It was a great project to do and the highlight was the online community who have followed from start to finish,” he said.

“I’ve asked them for suggestions and comments, and the art evolved with their input and their comments.”

sculpture of kids playing marbles

Andrew Whitehead says the story becomes clear as you walk around the sculpture. Photo: Chris Roe.

He took great delight in developing the story and hopes visitors will spend some time walking around the work and pick up on the action from the body language of the three kids.

“The girl’s angry, she’s pouting and she’s frowning her eyebrows and the dog’s going off, and if you walk around, you realise that the fat kid stole her marble and it’s behind his back!” he laughs.

“She accused him and he’s going, ‘What? Not me!’, but her dog’s onto him – and then the poor brother is just trying to play his game.

“For me, that’s the joy when I see the kids looking at it and figuring it out and laughing.”

You can learn more about the Yield Festival here.

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