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Drive-through art gallery a first

Saturday, 23rd January, 2010

* Members of the CDEP executive committee who were instrumental in getting the drive-through gallery off the ground are Michael Jones, Andy Dennis, Terry Doolan (front) Trevor Johnstone (manager) and Paul Marriott. (absent Vicki Dutton and Robbie Kerwin) * Members of the CDEP executive committee who were instrumental in getting the drive-through gallery off the ground are Michael Jones, Andy Dennis, Terry Doolan (front) Trevor Johnstone (manager) and Paul Marriott. (absent Vicki Dutton and Robbie Kerwin)

Work on the first drive-through Aboriginal art gallery has begun.

Invented and developed by the local Barkindji people, the park will transform a dusty block in Wilcannia into a world-first gallery featuring entirely local artists. The first steps to getting the park going came on Thursday when workers traced out a path for the road.

"We hope to have the road down by the end of next month," said Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) manager Trevor Johnstone. Born out of the perception that people won't stop in Wilcannia because it's too dangerous, the drive-in gallery will allow people to remain in their car look at the art. This may then prompt them to stay a while.

Central Darling Shire General Manager, Tim Hazell, said the park was being built on land marked for a reconciliation project in 2006. Mr Hazell said the development of the Reconciliation Park would bring pride and enjoyment to the town. "It's the world's first drive through Aboriginal art gallery - we'll make that claim," he said.

"We've been talking about this for a few years and until Trevor came on board with the CDEP and put Reconciliation Park on the agenda and it's gone from there. "The ongoing plan is to have the CDEP look after it and maintain it." The park will consist of stone and wood carvings and mural walls and will incorporate a bush tucker garden, native and citrus trees.

Mr Hazell said it had come to this stage due to the will of the local people and in particular Mr Johnstone, who said the CDEP had a good working relationship with the council.

"We sat down with Tim (Hazell) in the first week or two in July and more or less introduced ourselves and said what can we do to improve the town," Mr Johnstone said. "They all just jumped at it. We got a big sheet of paper and this is what came out." Broken Hill TAFE art teacher Geoff DeMain will work with the artists to create the project, while TAFE would also help with the horticulture, irrigation and brick laying allowing for supervision and accredited training.

"People that are part of it are going to get skills out of it," Mr Hazell said. Mr Johnstone said despite around 20 to 30 artists living in Wilcannia, many of whom are keen to get their work on show at the park, the decision on who was chosen was yet to be made. "Once we put the walls in people will start talking about that," he said. "It will depend on who puts their hands up but it will be good quality art that we showcase."

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