The $300,000 Water Cloud public art sculpture caused a community storm in Dorrigo, NSW

When Nick Wright decided to gift a sculpture to the town of Dorrigo, he had no idea the disruption it would cause in the town he loves.

“I wanted to give something to the city that would give me a lot of peace and happiness,” Mr. Wright said, becoming emotional as he recalled the debate.

“And I don’t think everyone wanted to accept the gift.”

The controversial Water Cloud sculpture has been installed on the High Street of the NSW Mid North Coast town after more than eight years of planning.

Western Australian sculptor Stuart Green designed the work to reflect the essence of the city which has an average annual rainfall of 2,000 millimeters and is known for its World Heritage-listed national parks, rolling waterfalls and lush dairy pastures.

The aluminum curves form the shape of an endless jet of water that lights up at sunset.

It took two days to install the Water Cloud on the main street of Dorrigo.(ABC Coffs Coast: Arianna Levy)

In 2014 the local council passed a community public art plan to ‘liven up’ Bellingen county towns, prompting Mr Wright, 82, a local for 20 years, to donate the $300,000 sculpture to give back to the community.

Older man wearing hi vis jacket and button down shirt staring
Nick Wright donated the Water Cloud to the city to give back to the community.(ABC Coffs Coast: Arianna Levy)

“I used to live on the north side of town. Every time I walked in I had to cross the bridge and look at the park along the shore and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to see a sculpture there? ?’” said Mr. Wright.

Poll controversy

But Mr. Wright would soon discover how art can divide opinion.

The proposal sparked a lot of debate: from discussions in town to online discussions in community groups.

Local Kerry Miller says the artwork has “ripped the town in two”.

“There are people who are disgusted, you have people on Facebook who are shouting at each other. The comments are endless,” she says.

“Really, more options should have been explored before making a firm decision.

Woman in a brown blouse with slicked back hair standing in front of the main street
Kerry Miller says more options for location should have been considered.(ABC Coffs Coast: Arianna Levy)

When Bellingen Shire Council conducted a poll at the first community consultation, almost 80% of the responses were against its installation.

Some of the comments were that the art would be “awful” and “impractical” for the main band.

Many locals also said it didn’t reflect the nature of the city.

But after it was revealed that the initial online portal had received responses from people who did not live in Dorrigo, the council asked Mr Wright to carry out a second investigation himself.

This survey returned 177 votes for the artwork and 174 against.

Mayor Steve Allan says the work went through extensive processes before final approval.

“It’s fair to say that with any piece of public art it would have its opposition, but when you think about it, it really speaks to the beautiful natural attributes that Dorrigo is known for, including our beautiful waterfalls. water,” Mr. Allan said.

A silver lining

Grey-haired man wearing bucket hat smiling
Rowan Holden says he will keep an open mind when it comes to sculpting.(ABC Coffs Coast: Arianna Levy)

Despite the controversy, some locals believe the sculpture will encourage tourists to stay longer when visiting the city.

Rowan Holden, who has lived in Dorrigo for 30 years, was initially hesitant about the job but says he’s “trying to keep an open mind”.

“I didn’t think it followed the character of the city, but now we’ll see it going up, what it looks like,” he says.

“I’m not sure about the lighting aspect.”

Woman wearing pink shirt, black glasses and short hair smiling
Sara Hankin says the Water Cloud will be a new addition to Dorrigo’s Main Street.(ABC Coffs Coast: Arianna Levy)

Sara Hankin, on the other hand, thinks the new landmark adds a spark to the city.

Sculptor Stuart Green emphasizes the positives.

“I know change is always a bit scary and not everyone is in favor of it, but when you actually see it, it’s this exciting and different focal point of downtown,” he said. he declares.

The sculpture was installed this week, and visitors can now form their own opinion.

Mr. Wright hopes the town will grow to accept his gift.

“Some don’t. Some for good reasons and they are entitled to it.”

Mildred D. Field