Community

Wagga youth share their stories for pump station art projects

Chris Roe28 April 2022
woman spray paints mural

Artist Carla Gottgens pieces together the mural at the Simmons Street Park pump station. Photo: Wagga Wagga City Council.

From weatherworn infrastructure to eye-popping art, a pair of wastewater pump stations in Wagga have been given a creative overhaul over the school holidays.

The Simmons Street park mural celebrates local animals, plants and activities, while the second pump station near the skate park off Bolton Park features a more urban ‘Mosaic of Selfies’.

grafitti mural

Artist Jeff McCann delivers a more urban, graphic style for the eye-popping Bolton Park mural. Photo: Chris Roe.

“Both of those pump station sites had murals on them previously, but they were quite old,” Wagga council’s cultural officer Lauren Reynolds says.

“They had been graffitied and deteriorated over the years, so there was an opportunity to refresh those sites.”

Lauren says they wanted the work to be collaborative and included local youth in the process of selecting the artists.

“I actually had a small panel of five students who went through the applications with me and gave their rankings as well, which was great,” she says.

Bush mural

Wagga Wagga Public School kids have their names included on the finished Simmons Street mural. Photo: Chris Roe.

Melbourne artist Carla Gottgens was selected to refresh the Simmons Street site and teamed up with kids from nearby Wagga Wagga Public School.

She handed over her drawings with scissors and pens and worked with the kids on the story and composition.

“They basically cut them out and put them into positions of how they wanted the animals to appear,” she says.

“Playing soccer or skydiving or floating down the river on the floaty beds.”

Once the final design was approved, Carla got to work with her signature combination of stencils and aerosols.

Lauren says she’s looking forward to showing the finished project to the kids.

“They wouldn’t have necessarily known what they were contributing to and when they see it, they’ll realise that exactly what they drew is up there. She [artist Carla] has honoured what they did,” she says.

bush mural

Artist Carla Gottgens says her favourite idea from the Wagga Wagga Public School kids was the kangaroo and skink on the running track. Photo: Chris Roe.

Sydney artist Jeff McCann, who undertook the Bolton Park mural project, says he likes to channel his younger self through his art and engage kids in the creative process.

He hopes the kids who contributed to the mural will be able to see themselves in the work.

“It’s always super exciting to see what the kids come up with because you just never really know what they are going to do,” he says.

“I wanted to come up with an idea that allowed kids to sort of express themselves and celebrate what makes them unique in a really fun and playful way.”

Urban mural

Jeff McCann’s Bolton Park mural reflects the lives of the teenagers who contributed to its creation. Photo: Chris Roe.

Ideas were collected from a ‘selfie tile’ workshop at the library where participants used collage and drawing to create images that represented themselves.

“If you had to represent yourself in an artwork without actually drawing yourself, what would you actually do? What are your favourite foods? What do you love to do? What do you like to watch? What do you like to wear? What makes you unique and special?” Jeff says.


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Lauren says it was great to see the teenagers getting involved in the painting as well.

“We had one particular girl who was there for four days painting because she was so heavily invested in the project. She just wanted to keep coming back, which was great,” she says.

Kids working on mural

Jeff McCann oversees the ‘Mosaic of Selfies’ mural on the pump station at Bolton Park. Photo: Wagga Wagga City Council.

Both works are now complete and Jeff says he hopes the art will make people smile.

“We want them to smile and be like ‘let’s go over and have a look at it’ and sort of be intrigued enough to have a closer look,” he says.

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