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Orange can't stop arguing about its new golden balls

June 2, 2022


A golden ball at Robertson Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

COMMENT


By Peter Holmes


A good time for councillor Kevin Duffy to have had a whinge about the latest art installation in Orange would have been before the council he sat on approved it.


Duffy has been filmed by a local news organ standing in rain and wind next to a large golden ball to complain about the cost of these large golden balls. There was a certain comedic air to it all.




It could be viewed as Duffy playing to a certain crowd, as there has been a lot of complaint about the cost of the golden balls on social media. Many say fix the potholes and housing crisis first.



This mural is part of the public art. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

And it's true that $92,000 (split between council and the state government) is a fair amount to splash out on nine golden balls (officially "gilded, concrete spheres") and the residents of Orange have the right to debate whether it represents value for money.



It's also true that if councils and governments spent more money on pot holes and housing and nothing on supporting culture, art and sport, society would be relentlessly grey indeed.


Part of the CBD public art program. Supplied.

The problem for Duffy weighing in now is that before councillors approved the golden balls last year as part of a wider funding package for public art in the CBD, a briefing was held for councillors on this very topic.



Councillors are invited regularly to briefings related to issues of significance in the community. They are not compulsory.





The briefings give council staff or experts in certain fields the opportunity to run councillors through various projects that have been proposed.


Questions can be asked and topics - developments, grants, road works - scrutinised at a deeper level.


Reality check, also part of the CBD public art. Supplied.


Some briefings involve councillors taking a minibus to view a site.


Councillors can then take the information they have gleaned from these briefings and use it to help inform the way they vote at forthcoming meetings on whether projects goes ahead.



Councillor Jeff Whitton - who was on the last council, which voted for the golden balls, and was reelected in December 2021 (ditto Duffy) - told The Orange News Examiner he remembered being briefed about the golden balls last year. He said he remembered the cost being discussed.

He said he couldn't recall any councillors being opposed to the public art funding in general, or the balls specifically.





Former mayor Reg Kidd, who retired at the December election, said he couldn't remember specifically if the golden balls or their cost had been talked about, but that he recalled the briefing about the public art projects.



Supplied.


As pieces of public art go, the sturdy golden balls scattered around Orange have at the very least generated discussion. That is part of art's purpose.



It's not ideal that the debate hasn't been around what the sculptures actually symbolise (the tops of little push pins you'd use to mark a location on a map, or hold a photo on a cork board) and what they represent (the pins follow the route of the original Blackman's Swamp Creek between Orange Regional Gallery and Matthews Park).

A close-up shot of one of the balls. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

To some extent this is understandable.





The number of people in Orange who might want to follow the golden balls around along the path of a creek might well be in the range of "not many" to "not very many", as it's not a topic that grips the city.


Still, the golden balls are eye-catching as standalone pieces of public sculpture, and they add to the flavour of the CBD.


Some wiseacres on social media claim they could have painted nine balls of concrete for a lot less, and of course they could.



But this discounts the time spent formulating the idea, researching, the build, transport, and ensuring the balls were invisibly anchored so they didn't just roll away over your grandmother's toe and onto Summer Street.


Duffy also complained about the artists behind the golden balls not being from these parts.

It's worthy of discussion, however - again - the councillor left it a bit late.


Council staff made it clear last year that the winning applications were from both local artists and those from elsewhere.

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