22 July 2022

Cobargo's revamped pole art project tells the stories of its community 20 years on

| Evelyn Karatzas
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montage of painted poles

Some of the designs on the poles from the Cobargo Painted Pole exhibit. Photo: Gabrielle Powell.

A collaboration between Cobargo artists and residents has restored colour to the community thanks to two bushfire recovery grants.

The Painted Poles of Cobargo project run by Cobargo Creators and The Lazy lizard Gallery was inspired by poles painted 20 years ago that told stories about the people and events of the community.

Following the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires the community once again came together this year to restore the poles with new art showcased all around the southeast NSW village.

More than 30 artists and community members from around the region were involved.

Project artist Gabrielle Powell said 55 poles were painted to feature flora, fauna, landscapes and other subjects.

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They were placed along Cobargo Public School, Mill Road, Princes Highway, Bermagui Road and down to the showground.

“The Cobargo Painted Poles project is all about beauty, art, storytelling, wellbeing and self esteem,” Gabrielle said.

“Many of our local artists with a connection to and love of the village have taken up the request to pick up the brush and paint a picture.

“This project gives new life to our demoralised streetscape and offers hope towards recovery.”

pole painting

Cobargo local Shirley Anne Myers painted this pole. Photo: Gabrielle Powell.

After receiving two rounds of the Cobargo Community Bushfire Recovery Fund, folk got to work in March this year.

“After receiving the first grant, we got approval to get started on 25 of the poles and people loved the vibrancy and colour they brought to the community,”Gabrielle said.

“When we received the next grant, we did a call out to the community and asked if anyone wanted to paint a pole with artwork that represented the community and what they liked about it. Then 30 more were painted.

“We had kids from playgroups aged three and four that contributed to the pole painting project, as well as school students, community members and artists in their 70s.”

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Gabrielle said some people involved were part of the original project two decades ago. Some even repainted the same pole they did back then.

“My daughter [Alice Lafferty], who’s now 30, was in an art class that contributed to the project when it was first introduced in 2002,” she said.

“So many people back then were excited to brighten up the community and now, so many years later, we’ve received such beautiful feedback from everyone after re-vamping the poles.

“People have said they love driving through towns and seeing all the colourful designs. They put a smile on everyone’s face.”

Gabrielle herself painted two poles and assisted with another four.

“One of them I painted in the park that’s got bright, colourful flowers and another I painted featured vines which were inspired by the bushfires,” she said.

“I also supported Natalie Bateman, an Aboriginal artist and one of the original artists that painted some poles near the bakery at the Recovery Centre.”

Painted pole

One of the poles Gabrielle painted. Photo: Gabrielle Powell.

Other artists and groups involved in the Cobargo Painted Poles project included Allison Allwood, Elizabeth Andalis, Ci-aan Argent, Vivienne Arnott, Natalie Bateman, Carl Taylor, Jenny Bruce, Zoe Burke, Beth Dogan, Cornelia Eichler, Lillian and Don Green, Ruth Haggar, Ros Hewett, Shanice Hilder, Nicky Hutteman, Lainey Keir, Emily Laszuk, Naomi Lewis, Michelle Marly, Helen Morris, Shirleyanne Myers, Narelle Perroux, Judy Pinder, Gabrielle Powell, Maz Raynsford, Kelly Ryner, the Evans family, Maggie Thorssell, Jess Evans, Robyn Williams, Sally Wilson, Kath Unsworth, Cobargo children’s art class, Cobargo playgroup and Cobargo Public School.

Gabrielle said being involved in the project had been an amazing experience, “It just makes you feel like a part of the community and it’s really brought us all together,” she said.

The official launch of the Cobargo Painted Poles will take place at the Cobargo Hall Supper Room on Saturday 6 August from 11 am, as part of the Sapphire Coast’s Art Month event.

To find out where the poles are located and learn more about the paintings, visit the Cobargo Creators map.

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