Client: Rural City of Wangaratta, Wangaratta Art Gallery
Location: Wangaratta, Australia
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $180,000
Creative Direction & Design
Technical Direction & Design
Conceived as a key element of the Wangaratta Railway Precinct revitalization in Victoria, Australia, The Beacon embodies a novel approach to storytelling, community connection, and environmental stewardship. Thinkcraft led the design, direction and execution of the permanent installation which is a hybrid of physical mural, interactive lighting technology and an interactive onsite app allowing for day through night public place making and activation. The mural is installed on a 30 meter water tower and employs steel structure lighting fixtures with an on-site server to facilitate the interactive app.
The Wangaratta Railway Precinct is a gateway to the Victorian high country and the region is home to unique indigenous flora, fauna, and iconic waterways — something the studio wanted to highlight and celebrate. Developed in collaboration with a local ecologist, and with consultation of local Indigenous community; the project depicts a range of key and endangered species of flora and fauna, color coded which when viewed at night reveal and obscure certain portions of their ecologic truths and stories. The project invites visitors to slow down, explore, and reconnect with the world around them, fostering a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of our shared ecosystem.
Public art can bring to the fore narratives and histories that are often marginalized — this is particularly salient in the context of redevelopment, where public art can serve as a means to preserve and celebrate local culture amidst rapid urban transformations.
The Railway Precinct redevelopment identified public art as being a key part of it's strategy to connect both the walkways of the precinct and engage the community in stories with relevance and importance to them. Moreover, as a gateway to a large tourist area, and a main transit hub in Wangaratta, The Beacon site was marked as an iconic area to be developed with a project that would carry the values of the area.
During public consultation of community, it was brought up that this area and corner was dark and derelict, and community members often felt unsafe moving through there. This formed part of the rationale of using lighting at night in the project; both as a storytelling and interactive device — and also as a way to brighten up the area and act as a beacon for the city.
Preproduction and planning involved consultation with both local Indigenous groups within community and also a local ecologist; ensuring a culturally authentic and scientifically informed representation of the surrounding ecology. The studio collaborated with a technologist iteratively to develop the interactive elements and ensure the design and technology components worked seamlessly. Working with local contributors was a key part of the community strategy for the project; which meant manufacturing and installation was done by a local team of steel fabricators and mural installers.
The studio was on-site and in contact with a diverse range of collaborators for the duration of the project, working to ensure day to day needs were met on-site as well as iterative changes that occur in the process of collaboration. Testing was needed prior to the delivery of the project, which involved working carefully on-site with electricians and our technologist — working out any bugs in the system.
The Beacon reminds visitors in an era of ‘immediate connection’ that we are all part of an interconnected ecosystem, a “Dirrawarra-ness” that speaks to our universal connection to our surroundings and each other. The concept for "The Beacon" stems from a deep appreciation for the regional indigenous flora and fauna, and the rich tapestry of Bpangerang and Australian First Nations stories. The narratives of endangered species are told in an immersive and interactive manner, fostering a dialogue on conservation and ecological responsibility.