Kingston District Council turns ashes into art

MURAL: Kingston District Council Mayor Kay Rasheed pictured with Australian Country Music Singer Adam Brand. Photo: Gavin Blacker, gjb photography.
MURAL: Kingston District Council Mayor Kay Rasheed pictured with Australian Country Music Singer Adam Brand. Photo: Gavin Blacker, gjb photography.

Just twelve months since a devastating bushfire tore through Keilira, Kingston District Council has officially launched 'Wind Dance', the first augmented reality public mural in South Australia.

The project was made possible thanks to funding from the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Program, a Federal Government bushfire recovery initiative.

'Wind Dance' was commissioned by the council in the wake of the Keilira bushfire which was started by dry lightning in late December 2019.

The Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery grants are part of the National Bushfire Recovery Fund, which aim to provide support to boost tourism across bushfire-affected regions.

"We know a strong tourism sector has many benefits: it creates jobs, investment, and growth in our communities, especially those in the regions," project founder and council CEO Nat Traeger said.

"We sought funding with the intent of stimulating our local economy through innovation and having a point of difference.

"We wanted to create an experience that is unique to Kingston and provides a new tourism offering to draw people into our main street precinct."

Mayor Kay Rasheed said council was immediately drawn to the possibility of augmenting a public artwork due to it not being done in South Australia before.

"We first saw the augmented reality concept whilst developing our new Public Art Framework, and we were interested in pursuing the idea of having something in our town," she said.

"The project will capitalise on the growth of both art tourism and the world of augmented reality and we are excited to see this literally come to life."

"The static mural is fantastic in itself, but this added dimension is immersive and quite spectacular."

Visitors of all ages can download the free 'EyeJack' app on their device to see the huge mural being brought to life, as a digital layer is projected on the real work, right in front of their eyes.

With tourism rapidly growing in regional SA, council hopes digital experiences like 'Wind Dance' will bring more people to the region, in turn supporting local businesses and bringing small rural communities together.

Not only has augmented reality been incorporated in the public artwork, the experience is heightened by backing sound.

"The piece really comes to life in both sight and sound and is providing joy and surprise from both kids and adults as they give it a go", Mayor Rasheed said.

"The mural has added a great vibrancy to the street and already we are seeing people downloading the app, pointing at the QR code and taking photos.

"Council is committed to creating a thriving destination that encourages tourism and lifestyle living and this new tourist attraction is certainly a testament to that."

Council selected artist Sarah Boese to develop the artwork, which was done through direct engagement with the community and in-line with the council's recently adopted Public Art Framework.

Ms Boese completed the work in December, and it was augmented through a partnership with Adelaide company JumpGateVR and EyeJack.

She said 'Wind Dance' is designed to capture the personality of Kingston, and features themes that acknowledge nature, Aboriginal culture and coastal lifestyle.

"The heron, a spiritual totem that is important to the Meintangk people, is a symbol of determination, resilience and tranquility," she said.

"The circular patterns tie in with the local Aboriginal practice of weaving and pay respect to their deep connection with the land.

"Smoke drifts through the artwork reminding us of the devastating bushfire that occurred in the region in December 2019 and native spider orchids represent regrowth and healing.

"The soaring fish reflect family activities and summers by the beach and were inspired by the popular kite festival that takes place in Kingston.

"Represented as kites, the fish attached to a string remind us that whilst we are connected to nature, we can't always control it. Instead, we can embrace and respect the delicate natural cycles of our environment."

The mural was officially opened by Australian country music singer Adam Brand and Mayor Kay Rasheed at a free community concert at the Crown Inn Hotel on January 8.