Manifesting Alberto’s Southend dream

SCULPTURE SITE: The digital representation which shows the placement of the sculpture included in artist Mike Tye's original submission. Pic supplied: Mike Tye

Caroline Hammat

Work is due to begin on Southend’s first major public art project next month by South Australian mosaic artist Michael Tye.

The public artwork is inspired by long-time Southend resident, Alberto Galli, who died in 2021.

In 2018 the community were working on the town’s 10 year plan when Mr Galli suggested a tribute to the early women of Southend.

Mr Galli, a 1950’s Italian migrant, believed the town would not be where it is today without those women and wanted to acknowledge the importance of them in the town’s early development.

Generous benefactors of the project are Mr Galli’s two daughters and this support has been used to leverage arts grant funding.

A successful Rapid Response grant from Country Arts SA employed two shortlisted artists to create maquettes and submit a detailed design.

Around 36 Southend residents, both young and old, visited the Southend hall during a community consultation period held last September.

They were able to add their comments after viewing the maquettes and reading the artist’s submissions.

Ruth Vander Hoek, as a member of the Southend Progress Association Committee driving the project, facilitated the community consultation process.

“I took notes as well, there was lots of wonderful conversation that went on from people, which was really great to hear,” Ms Vander Hoek said.

“These comments were fed to the panel who were appointed to select the artist to develop and carry this project through to fruition.

“It was something new and a bit exciting and following on from that I think the excitement has remained.

“Mike came down and actually looked at the site and it was obvious that he had sat in the site and absorbed it.

“He has met and talked to a number of people in the community.”

The project cost is $50,000 and began with a $10,000 donation from the Galli family.

Since selecting Mr Tye as the successful artist a $15,000 Arts SA Public Art and Design grant has been secured and the rest of the funding has been donated by the community.

Grant writer for the project, Ruth Vander Hoek, said she was very appreciative of the mentoring and support received from Merilyn De Nys who is the Community Arts and Culture Leader for Country Art SA.

Late last year the steering committee asked the community to pledge donations toward the project.

“A lot of people said yes to the pledge request, including the two Lions Clubs of Millicent and Beachport,” Ms Vander Hoek said.

“They were both very generous and we had generous people in the community as well.”

Following Christmas Ms Vander Hoek sent out an email to those who pledged funds asking for it to be converted into donations.

“I was totally blown away, just about every pledge was turned into a donation within about five days over that busy time,” she said.

“It showed clearly what amazing support there is within our local and wider community for this project.

Southend’s sculpture will be in the form of a large arch spanning over four metres wide and almost two and half metres high.

According to the artist’s submission the arch represents home, both an ancient home of Indigenous people and for others, a new home.

It acknowledges the women of pre-colonisation through a representation of a Boandik woman wearing a possum skin cloak and carrying a baby.

Mirrored on the other side of the arch is a mother and child which recognises the post war women who found a new home in Southend following WWII.

The floral pattern of the woman’s dress represents the bright hope for their new home.

Imagery of Victorian lace at the top of the arch acknowledges early colonisation and, according to the artist, a time of great opportunities for some but great sadness for others.

The lace shows the creativity and skill of women, their patience and perseverance.

Other craft symbols show the skills passed down through generations of women, the passing on of knowledge and creating bonds which communities are built on.

As stated in his submission, Mr Tye said “This artwork provides a platform for celebrating women and raises the profile of women in general.

“Alberto’s Dream has manifested into not only an artwork that holds positive messages about women but also adds a unique and elegant structure to the foreshore of Southend.

“The arch provides a frame through which to view the seascape whilst contemplating the role women play in creating community both within and across cultures.”

Mr Tye’s sculpture will be situated on a flat area close to the walking and bike path along Bridges Drive.