Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Did you know that one of the best ways to measure the health of a river is to look for microscopic water bugs? The Great Alpine Gallery has created the ‘Living River Water Bugs’ art installation along the Poets Walk at Tambo River to draw attention to these important little critters and engage the community in understanding how important they are.

When the Poets Walk was being updated for a relaunch, Gallery staff saw an opportunity to work with local artists and the local P-12 College to create an art installation that celebrated the micro bugs that make their river healthy.

They also wanted to educate the town about the importance of making sure that the river water was clean and healthy. They hoped to engender community participation and ownership in keeping the river free of agricultural chemicals and other pollutants. This is particularly important for people to understand as agriculture is a major industry in the community.

A $5,000 grant from the William Buckland Foundation and Equity Trustees meant that the Gallery could commission artworks from nine local artists, with a mixture of established and emerging artists working together to create the installations. This created an opportunity for mentoring for emerging artists in the community.

Local school students took water samples from the river and identified the water bugs as part of their science program, and then gave this information to the artists. They worked together to design and create the water bug installations, using a combination of basket weaving techniques with local sourced materials, eco dyed fabrics and other sustainable resources that are native in the community. 70 local community members also engaged in workshops to learn more about the importance of river-care and help to create the sculptures.

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Heavy, and desperately needed, rain was forecast for the night of the launch, so the bugs were lit up and displayed in the gallery space. A river soundscape was played and a sideshow of photographs from the river were shown.

Tracey Johnson, President of the Great Alpine Gallery, said of the project;

“Living River Water Bugs has raised river-care awareness among the community. The engagement of the community in the joyous and fun-filled occasion of the launch was one of our proudest moments, along with raising awareness of the Poets Walk among the community as a wonderful asset they can enjoy now and in the coming years.”