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First Nations artists unveiled for new Footscray Hospital tapestry

NewsFirst Nations artists unveiled for new Footscray Hospital tapestry
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Aus and NZ

Australia and New ZealandHealth

09 Apr 2024

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Plenary Health has announced the artists tasked with creating the design for a tapestry that will hang suspended in the main entry and welcome all visitors to the new hospital.

Renowned artists Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung) and Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji) will collaborate on the design, incorporating microscopic images of river reeds from the Maribyrnong River and skeletal drawings of local native flora and fauna.

Working closely with master weavers from the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Clarke and Mahoney’s artwork will be transformed into a three-dimensional tapestry spanning 4.2 x 10 metres, making it one of the largest tapestries ever produced for a public hospital in Victoria.

‘Welcome to Country – now you see me: seeing the invisible,’ 2024 Maree Clarke & Mitch Mahoney. Collaborating on the design, Clarke’s artwork pictured will have Mahoney’s river line drawings incorporated by weavers through shading and colour work to complement the tapestry’s colourful design.

Plenary Health New Footscray Hospital Project Chair, Kelvyn Lavelle, said “Mitch and Maree will design a tapestry that will greet the public and staff with a striking visual connection to the local landscape, community and history of the west.”

“The integration of art into the hospital’s design serves not only to complement the architectural aspects but also to foster calmness and cultural safety in a hospital environment that can often be stressful for patients and family.”

Mitch Mahoney and Maree Clarke

The tapestry is a collaboration between Plenary Health, the official arts partner for the new hospital Footscray Community Arts, the Australian Tapestry Workshop, and the Tapestry Foundation of Australia, in collaboration with the Victorian Health Building Authority and Western Health.

Footscray Community Arts Artistic Director, Daniel Santangeli said, “Art at the new Footscray Hospital will reflect Footscray’s rich history and strong sense of community.

“As Footscray Community Arts celebrates 50 years of creativity in Melbourne’s west in 2024, we’re proud to be working on this significant tapestry with two renowned artists who have a strong history of practicing in the area.”

Public art is a core part of the new Footscray Hospital’s overall design approach to help deliver an improvement in health and wellness and include various standalone works and immersive art forms in external and internal spaces of the hospital.

Director/CEO of the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Sophie Travers said “This is a wonderful opportunity for the weavers of the tapestry workshop to collaborate with leading artists and communities in Melbourne’s west.

“The tapestries we have woven for hospitals are amongst our most loved, because of the colour, warmth, and connection they bring to people of all backgrounds. We are confident this will be a joyful and much-loved addition to a beautiful new building.”

Mitch Mahoney and Maree Clarke with the Australian Tapestry Workshop team

There will be several public art commissions across the new hospital including ‘Journey to Footscray’, where one artist’s work will feature on recessed wall panels showcasing local stories of migration, nature sound art in outdoor spaces, digital art, community-led art pieces and First Nations landscaping.

The new Footscray Hospital tapestry is the second major tapestry that forms The Premiers Suite, a partnership between the Tapestry Foundation of Australia, the State Government of Victoria and the Australian Hotels Association to fund the production of major tapestries in new hospitals in the state. 

Construction is well underway on the $1.5 billion new Footscray Hospital that is set to open in 2025.

Chris Whitefield

Executive Director, Communications and Community

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