TAFE SA graduate Anika awarded major public art commission

May 24, 2022

TAFE SA Visual Arts graduate Anika Gardner at George Street Studios.

TAFE SA graduate Anika Gardner and fellow visual artist Amber Cronin have won one of the country’s most significant public art commissions for 2022.

Anika and Amber are the recipients of the Helpmann Academy’s $150,000 Public Art Commission for the Goolwa Wharf Precinct, which was announced earlier this year.

Anika says the commission, presented in partnership with the Alexandrina Council and supported by the K & S Langley Fund, is an “amazing opportunity” to produce a large-scale public artwork in a popular and historic location.

“Thanks to the support and facilities of TAFE SA I was able to get involved in public art whilst I was studying, completing about five different small public pieces in bronze and metal,” she says.

“This opportunity for the Goolwa Wharf Precinct presented a way to further my love and interest in public art and upscale it, with the support of a George Street Mentorship.”

Anika, who studied the Bachelor of Creative Arts – Visual Arts with TAFE SA and Flinders University, has also been awarded a 12-month residency at George Street Studios, which will enable her to focus more time on her arts practice and develop new skills essential to the project.

Submissions for the public art project had to include a theme of ‘family and connectedness’ and be ‘engaging for families and children from all cultures’.

Anika and Amber’s vision for the Goolwa Wharf Precinct has been influenced by its rich history, including Ngarrindjeri histories extending well before colonisation, and they’ve worked with Ngarrindjeri artist Cedric Varcoe to develop their concept.

“We wanted this work to really showcase, highlight and tell those stories as Goolwa was a network node and bustling hub before colonisation for many thousands of years,” Anika says.

“The only surviving visible legacies left are the midden circles, which were places of gathering, eating and sharing, which inspired our idea of having a work that could function as a meeting area.

“Fluidity of water, the deep time and movement of the place and natural elements of the landscape were also important for us.”

The project, which will take a year to bring to fruition, will include 18 tall stainless-steel reeds (representing the 18 different Ngarrindjeri clan groups), cockle-shaped boulders and seven large granite circles featuring designs by Cedric which convey stories about the area.

“It's a particularly exciting project as it coincides with Goolwa wharf's redevelopment so we have the opportunity to work closely with WAX Design landscapers to fully realise the project cohesively in the space with the other landscaping elements,” Anika says.

“I can't wait until it's installed and see families and people using and flowing around the work. As Cedric says, it's going to help bring the mewe or spirit back into the wharf.“