Surge in public art cement's Newcastle's reputation as a cultural destination

30 Mar 2024

Newcastle's reputation as an arts and cultural destination continues to grow thanks to an array of significant public art projects bringing colour to the city’s streets.

City of Newcastle’s (CN) Public Art Reference Group (PARG) considered six public art proposals relating to major private developments in Newcastle West and Adamstown during the past 12 months. An example of work approved by PARG is the Awabakal-inspired artworks on a recently constructed prominent commercial building on Hunter Street.

Councillor and PARG Chair Carol Duncan with PARG member Nikolas Orr in front of Fintan Magee's mural in Civic Lane, Newcastle.

The projects were included in PARG’s 2023 Annual Report tabled at this week’s Council meeting, which also highlighted a range of community art proposals, CN related works and festivals partially funded by CN’s Special Business Rates program.

The proposals included murals, statues, video art, temporary artworks, chalk art, sculptures and suspended artwork.

Councillor Carol Duncan, who Chairs the group, said the last 12 months had seen major growth for both Newcastle's public art collection and Newcastle's reputation as a city that embraces the arts.

“Newcastle's dynamic landscape has literally become a diverse and brightly coloured canvas for public art,” Cr Duncan said.
 “The public art panel have continued to come together to consult on all aspects of Newcastle's public art, from advising on the commissioning of new proposals associated with large developments in the city, to supporting community murals. 

"The much-loved Paul McCartney mural by local artist Mitch Revs has been one such project that has brought colour and vibrancy to a prominent location in the city in 2023."

PARG acts as an advisory committee to CN, providing guidance and advice to developers, artists, curators, CN staff and the community regarding public art in the private and public domain. 

The group also worked with applicants and artists to ensure proposed artworks were inclusive, culturally appropriate and added value to the city.

Its membership includes three Councillors and external community members specialising in art, design and heritage, as well as local Indigenous cultural representatives.

PARG panel member Cr Peta Winney-Baartz said the calibre of public art in Newcastle is of the highest standard.
“Newcastle boasts a proud public art scene which is not surprising when you consider that this city is home to the highest concentration of artists in Australia," Cr Winney-Baartz said.

"Our public art consultation and approval process at City of Newcastle, reflected by the incredible art that adorns our city streets, has become the goal of many other local governments. 

"Public art does not just beautify our city scapes; its positive effect on the entire community sparks connection and proves that art does not just belong inside a gallery."

Fellow PARG member, Cr John Mackenzie, said the panel has continued to raise the bar on public art in Newcastle.

“Our role has always been to help businesses incorporate relevant artworks that are reflective of Newcastle’s culture and heritage," Cr Mackenzie said.

"We also provide opportunities for local artists to work and connect with appropriate projects that ultimately leads to creative visual artworks that both residents and visitors enjoy.

"The addition of local artists and creatives who joined the group in 2022 have added a wealth of expertise to our decision-making that has further enhanced our processes and outcomes for public art in Newcastle."