New life breathed into old murals

MURALS once on show in Kempsey’s CBD are back on public display, after years of being kept in storage.

Originally unveiled on Savages Lane in 1998, the River Link Mural Project was an initiative of the Uptown Downtown committee, which aimed to brighten the town centre.

Vandalism and damage from trucks led to the mural panels being taken down some years ago and being put into storage by Kempsey Shire Council.

In recent weeks, the council’s community project officer Barbara Huntingdon succeeded in returning the artworks to public exhibition.

Back in the late 1990s, many of the Macleay’s leading artists were commissioned by Uptown Downtown to produce murals depicting local life, culture and history. High schools got on board too.

Collectively, they produced 17 artworks, some of which were damaged beyond repair.

Now, nine of the murals have been rehung – this time around the civic buildings at West Kempsey. Four more will be mounted.

Some still bear scratches from passing trucks, but all have been coated to protect them from acts of vandalism.

One of the original artists, Craig Fair, is delighted to see the murals back on display.

“Uptown Downtown supplied boards and paints and asked artists to contribute to the project,” he said.

“We all wanted to give something back to the community and donated our time, including attending a number of meetings.”

Mr Fair’s mural is a double panel and he describes it as a geographical and historical view of the Macleay.

Resembling a postcard, it shows a view of the layout of the valley as it would be seen from the ocean. Around the border are images associated with the area, its people, its past and its (then) present.

It incorporates images of Aboriginal people, early settlers – including town founder Enoch Rudder – cedar cutters, Slim Dusty and local wildlife.

“It promotes the unity of everyone in the community and depicts Kempsey as being a river town,” Mr Fair said.

He praised Ms Huntingdon for reviving the community project.

It was a goal she wanted to achieve, before stepping down from her council role.

“I had a connection with the history and with many of the artists and felt if they didn’t go on display before I finished (working at the council), the opportunity would have been lost,” Ms Huntingdon said.

The council’s art gallery committee provided funding for the resurrected project.

She has contacted most of the artists, but hopes to track down Raymond Button and Yvonne Sorensen.

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Mel Booth through the council’s call centre, on 6566 3200.

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