CityTalks: Design - Art in the City

(10.30am, Lord Mayor's Reception Room, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you, Bridget. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Town Hall.

When we spoke to our Sydney communities in preparing the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, one of the very clear calls that came through was that people wanted Sydney to be a lively and engaging place, one that made a broad range of culture available to everyone.

In response, the City developed our Public Art Strategy in 2011 and more recently, our first ever Cultural Policy. And later this year, we will deliver a new policy and guidelines for Public Art in New Development. We know that other cities like Seattle and New York have clear policies that produce terrific outcomes from private development projects and we think we can learn from them.

Meanwhile, we are working through our own public art program to make city streets and spaces more culturally alive and intriguing.

We have a year-round program of public art which has enlivened our public spaces, both as temporary and permanent installations. Temporary works installed under our Laneways program, for example, have led to a number of permanent installations - Forgotten Songs in Angel Place being an outstanding example.

We now have a terrific team of curators we're working with in a number of city precincts.

In Chinatown, it's Aaron Seeto who gave us our public art plan. We're now delivering on this plan with the much-loved In Between Two Worlds, a work by Jason Wing, that's enriching Kimber Lane. Artist Lindy Lee has a work underway as part of the upgrade of Thomas Street, which is due for completion next year.

And at present, Aaron is revisiting the Chinatown public art program to ensure it will be responsive to new developments along the old Darling Harbour goods line, at Darling Harbour itself and of course to the George Street Light Rail.

Hetti Perkins is working with us to curate the seven public art projects of the Eora Journey. This will embed in Sydney's public spaces and public consciousness the history and living culture of Australia's first people.

Hetti worked with Julie Cracknell on a review of international contemporary practice in interpretation, and recommending a variety of approaches the City should take.

Public artworks commissioned to date include:

Reko Rennie's street art project on the Caroline and Hugo Street terrace in Redfern. The Welcome to Redfern house mural was created with a group of young local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Nicole Foreshew's beautiful work, Born in darkness before dawn, was projected on the façade of the Australian Museum, showing slow-moving images of women draped in cloth that had been impregnated with materials held in the Museum which had come from their ancestral lands

And in time for the Anzac Day centenary, we unveiled Tony Albert's tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women - publicly unrecognised until now - who have served Australia in time of war.

In Green Square, curator Amanda Sharrad is working with the City on four public art projects that are part of the Green Square Public Art Plan. Two are already underway: Kerrie Poliness is preparing her artwork Stream for the Drying Green Park, and Maria Fernanda Cardoso is at work on While I Life, I Will Grow, a living artwork for the old South Sydney Hospital site which will become a new creative hub for Green Square.

A third brief for artists - currently being advertised - will connect Green Square and help people find their way around the Town Centre and the Library and Plaza and Gunyama Park and Aquatic Centre will also have public art. Jess Scully is working with the Library Team and Jonathon Jones with the Aquatic Centre team on that.

In the City centre, we're lucky to have Barbara Flynn working with us on integrating public art to transform our streets and spaces.

The three projects now under way are:

  1. Junya Ishigami's beautiful Cloud Arch which will soar above the intersection just outside Town Hall
  2. Tracey Emin's birds in The Distance of Your Heart will delight pedestrians along Bridge and Grosvenor Streets, with its central element in Macquarie Place Park by the Macquarie-era Obelisk from which all roads in Sydney were measured and
  3. Hany Armanious is working on his Pavilion for the people which sees a brighter future for Belmore Park, a space for contemplation and entertainment at the southern end of the City.

Our focus on public art is not about "prettifying" the city or insisting on civic monuments. It's an investment in creating the sort of global city that is dynamic, appealing and surprising, a city that people want to spend time in.

We are making good progress, but if we're to truly make Sydney a renowned cultural and creative city, we all must work together.

We welcome the fantastic contributions of those in the private and public sector who are producing outstanding new developments with innovative architecture and important public artworks.

These developments are creating a legacy for the future. One of the earlier examples was 1 Bligh Street, Alexander Calder's Crossed Blades at Australia Square but more recently there's Jenny Turpin and Michaelie Crawford's Halo at Fraser's Central Park and Jenny Holzer's I Stay at Mirvac's 8 Chifley Square.

We hope others will be enthused by aspire to join their ranks.

Today, we'll hear from some of those who are showcasing best practice and new approaches to the integration of high-quality public art in city developments.

Partnerships are critical if we are to get the best results for our City. So thank you all for joining us here to discuss how we can refine our approach, and the lessons we can learn from what has been done so far.