Cricket sculpture bowls up controversy

The sculpture, titled Backyard, has been installed near the Duncans Road interchange in Werribee. (Supplied).

By Alesha Capone

The Committee for Wyndham has expressed concern that a major artwork erected in Wyndham is actually related to Altona.

Under the state government’s Western Roads Upgrade, a $425,000 artwork titled Backyard has been installed near the Duncans Road interchange in Werribee.

The sculpture, inspired by games of cricket in artist Jon Campbell’s Altona childhood backyard, was commissioned from a number of submissions received during an independent selection process.

The sculpture was delivered through a public-private partnership with Netflow and Major Road Projects Victoria.

However, the Committee for Wyndham (C4W) chief executive Barbara McLure said that the organisation has written “to both Major Road Projects Victoria and Netflow expressing our disappointment that the artwork focuses on a backyard in Altona”.

“We are puzzled why an Altona-focused feature was placed in Wyndham, when Altona is in the City of Hobsons Bay,” Ms McLure said.

“The location of the sculpture is at the entrance to Werribee Park one of Victoria’s most important tourist precincts, and to Werribee South where much of the green vegetables supplied into Victoria and Australia’s supermarkets are grown.

“This would have been a great opportunity to feature icons local to our Wyndham community, to be seen by those travelling down the freeway.”

Ms McLure said that C4W has published more than 110 Talking Wyndham podcasts, to help both residents and those from outside the area, to learn about the Wyndham’s “wonderful“ people and stories.

She said the sculpture was a “missed opportunity” to also promote Wyndham.

“We do not wish to denigrate the artist’s work and we acknowledge the interchange has been a great addition to our road infrastructure,” Ms McLure said.

After Star Weekly published news about the sculpture being installed last month, several readers commented on social media that they thought the $425,000 spent on the artwork could have been better used to support local residents and businesses doing it tough during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others said the sculpture’s subject should have been more local to Wyndham, celebrating something such as Werribee South’s farming or Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Some readers labelled the sculpture “an absolute eyesore” and “a waste of taxpayer’s money”.

The non-profit McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery, which is based in Langwarrin in Melbourne’s south-east, ran the independent selection process for the artwork on behalf of Netflow.

The selection panel, which included representatives from Victoria University and Geelong Gallery, received more than 70 submissions.

Preference was given to submissions from artists with a strong connection to the western suburbs.

Artist Jon Campbell said that while having a backyard might not be everyone’s dream, “it remains a desirable and aspirational goal of suburban Melbourne”.

Netflow chief executive Pedro Uzquiza said the sculpture was a “visible reminder of the significant and long-term investment being made in the west and demonstrates the value that can be achieved through public-private partnerships”.