Northern Festival Centre unveils new aboriginal artworks

The opportunities Port Pirie provides, the colours of the local landscape and the unique stories of three proud aboriginal women and their connection to the region are now immortalised in new artworks at the Northern Festival Centre.

The artworks by local aboriginal artists Karen Williams, Annette Dodd and Judy Crosby are set to welcome thousands of people from around the region to the arts centre.

Guided by Adelaide-based mural artist Scott Rathman, each artwork represents the story of the artist and their relationship to Port Pirie.

For Scott, who has aboriginal family links to Port Augusta, the project represented an opportunity to discover more about the artists’ heritage.

“We ran a workshop to explore what we wanted to paint,” Scott said.

“We decided that we wanted to explore why each of these people were in this region when it was not their country for their aboriginal history.

“When we did that we realised that there was a unique story for each of them as to why they are here.”

Judy Crosby’s artwork represents her family’s longstanding relationship with the Port Pirie area, while Karen Williams’ work represents the safe environment Port Pirie provided her to raise a family in after moving from Alice Springs.

Annette Dodd’s painting tells the story of her family’s experience of moving to Port Pirie from Port Augusta in the 1960s in order to gain access to housing and education – two opportunities some aboriginal people were not able to access in Port Augusta during the 1960s.

The project was her first large-scale public work and she said it had inspired her to paint larger works in the future.

The colours used across each of the three works deliberately represent the local landscape with the ocean, flats and ranges all represented.

Scott believed the murals could start a broader art movement for the city and region.

“When you start to explore public art … it can turn a dull place … to a place that is vibrant,” he said.

“It is uplifting for people. When they are uplifted it benefits their well-being.

“We had some tourists stop and come over and say, ‘wow that looks great’ and they asked us all about it. They didn’t know what this place was but they were just going past and wanted to stop and have a chat. It shows you the difference straight away.”

Northern Festival Centre manager Jenny Stephenson said the work was the first funded by the centre’s Community Circles sponsors initiative. She said the NFC was already looking into further ways to reinvigorate the centre by engaging artists and public art concepts.