21 February 2024

Wagga prepares to farewell beloved Bald Archy Murals

| Jarryd Rowley
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Melbourne artist Tony Sowersby (right) painted the popular murals in 2008.

Melbourne artist Tony Sowersby (right) created the eight murals with members of the Wagga community in 2008. Photo: Tony Sowersby Facebook.

Since February 2008, the now iconic Bald Archy Murals have sat underneath the Wollundry Bridge giving passers-by a quick history of famous Wagga personalities through caricature.

Fast forward 16 years, the eight larger-than-life paintings are scheduled to be recycled as Wagga Wagga City Council (WWCC) believes the project has outlived its lifespan.

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WWCC Councillor Georgie Davies said it was always sad when public artworks were removed but the damage to and condition of the murals warranted the decision.

“In this case, the damage is so significant to the works underneath Wollundry Lagoon,” she said.

“It is sad, but we (WWCC) are active in getting new public artworks into the community and we will have new murals in Ashmont in the near future.”

The eight murals featured prominent Wagga figures including Dame Edna.

The eight murals featured Mark Taylor, Michael Slater, Dame Edna Everage, Henry Baylis, Brad Kahlefeldt, Melanie Twitt, Bill Kerr, Dame Mary Gilmore, Paul Kelly and The Tichborne Claimant. Photo: Tony Sowersby Facebook.

WWCC made the unanimous decision to remove the murals after the Public Art Advisory Panel recommended the deaccessioning of the artworks in December 2023.

The eight artworks include portraits of Mark Taylor & Michael Slater, Dame Edna Everage, Henry Baylis, Brad Kahlefeldt and Melanie Twitt, Bill Kerr, Dame Mary Gilmore, Paul Kelly and The Tichborne Claimant.

Members of the wagga community helped the artist.

Members of the Wagga community helped Tony paint the murals before placing them under the Wollundry Lagoon Bridge. Photo: Tony Sowersby Facebook.

The Melbourne-based artist behind the portraits, Tony Sowersby took to Facebook to thank WWCC and the Wagga Art Gallery for their support.

“Today, almost 16 years exactly since they were completed in February 2008, the murals I designed and painted with a group of young people in Wagga Wagga were removed from their location under the Wollundry Bridge,” he wrote on 15 February.

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“This was done with my permission. The Wagga Wagga City Council officers have been most respectful. The workers I dealt with originally and the staff at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery where the murals were created were all wonderful.

“The artwork has deteriorated and there was some vandalism. I understand the reasoning but it’s still a sad day. The eight images were of some prominent Wagga citizens and as befits the title the Bald Archy Murals, they were somewhat tongue in cheek.”

The council is expected to spend around $2300 to remove the murals and dispose of the material.

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