Meet our environmental expert
The lush Jamison Valley forms the backbone of the annual Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition, and no effort is spared to preserve the environment which acts as a canvas for dozens of world class artworks each year.
We spoke to Sculpture at Scenic World environmental consultant Tony Curry for a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved to maintain the exhibition’s 0% ecological footprint certification. Hint – there’s more to it than you’d expect.
Q: First of all, can you tell us a bit about what’s involved to showcase artworks in the forest?
A: It’s an incredibly involved process. First, we gain certification through Blue Mountains City Council, as well as a Development Application, and we have to comply with the Blue Mountains Local Environmental Plan (LEP). We also make sure that the installation is in line with Scenic World’s Environmental Management Strategy which was developed before the first Sculpture exhibition in 2012 to minimise the ecological impacts.
Q: For those of us who don’t know what an environmental plan looks like, what does this mean?
A: Essentially, it means there’s a lot of planning involved to make sure the artworks don’t interfere with the natural flora and fauna.
For example, all artworks must be ‘forest friendly’, which means they can’t compact the leaf litter or soil. Careful consideration is also given to all artworks that are suspended from trees, vines or plants to make sure their weight and shape is equally balanced, and we take a close look at the stability of artworks to make sure they don’t damage native trees or shrubs. Finally, we use industry best practice and wrap the trunks and branches in rubber material and hessian so the artworks don’t come into direct contact with the trees and shrubs.
Q: Can any artwork be installed in the rainforest?
A: Preserving the environment is at the core of Scenic World’s philosophy, which is why every artwork is assessed in terms of its environmental impact. There are strict criteria that artworks have to meet, and some have been modified in the past to satisfy these criteria.
We’ve come up with really creative ways of getting larger artworks down into the valley with minimal impact. For example, the largest artwork weighed about 300kgs, but it was transported and installed in pieces and suspended from substantial tree trunks so it didn’t impact the valley floor.
Q: What other considerations are taken into account?
A: Sculpture exhibits must be made of organic, biodegradable materials where possible.
Alternatively they need to be inert so they don’t leave chemical or physical contaminants or waste in the valley, and they need to be able to withstand wind, rain, sun and light.
Q: What happens once you’ve selected the artworks? How do you install them?
A: An incredible team of professionals come together to install the artworks, led by an installation manager who oversees a crew of arborists and ground staff. It’s not just one professional; a multidisciplinary group of experts is involved to put on the exhibition, but the results are worth it!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the end result?
A: The beauty of Sculpture at Scenic World is that it gets people to experience artwork in the valley with minimal impact on the environment. It’s a massive bonus to get people immersed in nature without having to tread on anything. There’s no point getting people to look at nature from the ridgetop – you want them to see it, breathe it, and experience it in an ecologically friendly way.
Q: What are your thoughts on environmental awareness? Do you think there’s a changing trend?
A: People do care and environmental awareness is growing over time. The installation from St Canice’s Primary School in Katoomba is a perfect example which shows children have got the message with the encouragement of their parents, teachers and peers. The message is coming through, which is wonderful.
Q: Finally, what’s been the most memorable Sculpture at Scenic World artwork that’s stuck with you over the years?
A: I’d have to say Michael McIntyre’s artwork, Extinct Markers, which won the 2016 exhibition. It was an incredible work of woven targets which set out the species that have become extinct over the years. Kevina-Jo Smith’s Tunnel of Love also made great use of the boardwalk to minimise the footprint of her artwork which was wonderful. I’m really inspired by artists who weave environmental awareness through their artworks, and I hope to see more of it come through in the future.
Tony is a Blue Mountains local with extensive tertiary and practical experience in agriculture, horticulture, landscape conservation and management, and botany. He has taught a range of specialised scientific courses covering soil science, pesticide management and plant identification. He also has experience teaching land conservation management.