Public Arts Stalagmites



21 August 2016 - Debbie and I recently spent a little time in Queensland, to escape the worst that winter would throw at us!

On our travels a couple of not-so-kiwi public art features presented themselves that I wanted to share.

First, there’s the sign just out of Rockhampton which announces an ‘Artists’ Colony’ and points towards the hinterland.

Colony? I ‘ve heard of ant, seal and even leper colonies – but artists too? Like some kind of exotic marsupial?

A little more research revealed artist colonies emerged in the 19th century when creatives moved away from urban centers and into the countryside. Colonies would emerge across Europe, America and Australia, as artists congregated to collaborate and inspire.

New York’s famous Greenwich Village is a great example, where the likes of Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol would at one time reside.

This is all great news. For a moment there, the artist in me was beginning to feel like a potential zoo exhibit!

Next stop is a beach just north of Cairns. As we rounded the corner and entered the bay we were greeted with the most unusual landscape. Hey, those are interesting rocks - they look like stalagmites, were they carved by the sea?

We pulled over.  Turns out they were pillars of hand-stacked stones.

A local there, Ken tell us that someone started this quite a while back by building a few columns – the sort of mindless thing you might do at the beach - in the sun, salt air and crashing waves. Nothing better to do, and why not.

Then someone else pulled over and added their tower, then another and another, and so it goes.

It’s taken off like wildfire, with hundreds of these stacked stone pinnacles defying gravity and the elements, and even springing up in other bays and beaches along this coastline.

So, could we call this public art? Well, why not. This has engaged hundreds of locals and tourists (including us) to make their individual contribution - and the effect, after all, is very artistic.

Back home, I’m thinking about a popular rest area on the Waimana river. Flat rocks everywhere … hmmm.

Oh, and in case you didn’t realize … a pile of hand-stacked stones is called a cairn.  

So there we were, north of Cairns, surrounded by cairns, with a bloke named Ken. How’s that?

Page reviewed: 21 Aug 2016 9:00am