A pink elephant riding a tiny tricycle. A giraffe cruising across a paddock on a penny farthing. If you take the Obley road from Molong to Cumnock and on towards Dubbo these are just some of the 45 Animals on Bikes sculptures you see along the way.
New funding from the federal government will help extend Animals on Bikes further and cement this quirky arts project on the tourism map.
Project coordinator and Cumnock local Christine Weston helped sell the idea to the community two years ago, originally as a tie in with the annual Mulga Bill Bicycle Festival.
It was also hoped to be a competition that would interest local people to have a go at making art and a way to get more people driving the ‘back road’ from Orange to Dubbo.
Soon local farmers, including many who didn’t normally consider themselves ‘artists’, were welding and sculpting away in their sheds. Their works and those of other locals were revealed late 2009.
Many of these same sculptors will be at it again over the next few months, creating the next batch of bike riding animals for Sculptures in the Paddock round two.
The quirky roadside characters have proved more of a hit than anyone could have hoped. Cabonne Council surveys have recorded a 20 per cent increase in traffic along the Obley Road since the sculptures first went up.
“Our roads are being sealed and the bridge fixed up so there must be more cars,” Ms Weston said.
“There are a lot more caravans and even the coffee shop has noticed an increase in people coming through to look at the Animals on Bikes.
“There must a word of mouth thing amongst the caravaners too.
“One of the most popular sculptures is the pig on a bike outside the [Cumnock] Police Station. It’s not on the main road but lots of caravans are turning off to take a look.”
The project scored another win last month with a $20,500 federal government TQUAL grant to create large Animals on Bikes village sculptures for towns along the route: Cumnock, Molong, Yeoval and Dubbo.
“There will be community consultation, with the community deciding what animals they want, and then the sculptures will be made by people from the community,” Ms Weston said.
She says the project also has strong support from Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
TQUAL Grants funding is focussed on tourism projects that enhance and refresh Australia’s tourism offering and its competitiveness as a destination.
The Animals on Bike project started with a small Country Arts Support Program grant and a lot of community good will.
It has since attracted a string of awards and follow-on funding. Local Rebecca Staines last year won $25,000 for Cumnock from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW to help local schools and agricultural shows to create their own sculptures along the trail. These will be part of this year’s competition.
Ms Weston has also spent the last year being mentored by David Handley from Sydney’s Sculptures by the Sea.
“He’s had some great ideas and suggestions for our event. Even though ours is different to Sculpture by the Sea, the concepts are the same,” Ms Weston said.
Both events, she says, are using art to engage the community with a particular place and to attract new visitors.
Inspired to create bigger and better works for this year’s competition, a group of locals have been taking sculpture classes with Hui Selwood at Orange TAFE.
GET INVOLVED: The next paddock art competition closes November 6 with a gala presentation night on November 26. Entries are welcome from individuals, schools, pre-schools, show societies, Men’s Sheds and other groups. For more information email: email@example.com.