Public art as wayfinding, placemaking, memorial and urban development
The story of the Cowpastures is represented in public art across the Macarthur region; one example is found along the Harrington Park Lake walkway.
A pleasant stroll around the lakeside path will bring the walker to a wooded section where there is an art installation with cows hiding under the trees.
The public artwork is a mixture of elements that combine wayfinding, placemaking, memorialisation and urban development in a new suburb.
The artwork installation called Cowpastures was created by artist Jane Cavanough of Artlandish Art and Design in 2001. The signage states ‘The cows represent the history of cattle grazing in this region, formerly known as “The Cowpastures”.
Artist Jane Cavanough
Artist Jane Cavanough writes that she ‘produces site-specific public art that combines a classic and contemporary design, interactive, low maintenance with long-lasting beauty. She states that her ‘strength is creating artworks that have a strong relationship to the site’. (Cavanough 2020)
Cavanough has achieved her aim with Cowpastures on the Lakeside Walk, where walkers can engage with the artwork and ponder what the real cows might have looked like over 200 years ago. The artwork has weathered well over the last 20 years and still carries the story created by the artist.
The considerations in Cavanough’s Cowpastures parallel the aims of public art in the Northern Beaches LGA. Important considerations for the community and the council along the Northern Beaches Coast Walk were eight principles:
- Respect and acknowledge the Aboriginal cultural heritage
- Celebrate and conserve significant natural and cultural values
- Connect places and people along the coast.
- Foster artistic and cultural expression and encourage creative collaboration
- Enrich places through high-quality art and design.
- Interpret the history and significance of the coast
- Value artistic and cultural diversity and be inclusive
- Create a distinctive and recognisable Northern Beaches Coast Walk identity.(Council 2019)
It is helpful in actually defining what is public art. The Northern Beaches Council Public Art Policy provides some guidance and states:
Public Art refers to a range of artwork and art-based activities that interface with the public, including private ownership property with publicly accessible space and the public domain. Public Art can include sculpture, place-making elements, wall embellishments, art integrated into the design of buildings, artist-designed seating and fencing, paving work, lighting elements and other creative possibilities. Public Art can serve both an aesthetic and functional purpose.
The public domain means public places and/or open spaces that are situated within, vested in or managed by Council, including parks, beaches, bushland, outdoor recreation facilities, streets, laneways, pathways and foreshore promenades and public buildings, facilities or enclosed structures, owned and managed by Council which are physically accessible to the general public. (Council 2019)
Camden Council defines public art as:
Defined as any artistic work or activity designed and created by professional arts practitioners for the public domain, Public Art may be of a temporary or permanent nature and located in or part of a public open space, building or facility, including façade elements provided by either the public or private sector (not including memorials or plaques).
Public art can….
- make art an everyday experience for residents and visitors
- take many forms in many different materials and styles, such as lighting, sculpture, performance and artwork
- be free-standing work or integrated into the fabric of buildings, streetscapes and outdoor spaces
- draw its meaning from or add to the meaning of a particular site or place
To assist Harrington Park Lakeside walkers in engaging with Cavanough’s Cowpastures artwork, information signage provides an interpretation of the installation. It states:
In 1788 a herd of 4 long horn cattle and 2 bulls escaped from the Government Farm at Rosehill. [sic] They were found seven years later in 1795 as a herd of 40 in a rich expanse of grassland. Later that same year Governor Hunter surveyed this region and appropriately named it “Cowpastures”. Harrington Park with [sic] the Cowpastures region.
The pastoral industry in Camden began when Governor King granted John Macarthur 2000 acres, which became known as Camden. Further land grants were handed out across the region, including Harrington Park in 1815 to Captain William Douglas Campbell.
The Davies family purchased Harrington Park from the Campbells in 1833. The Rudd family owned the property from 1902/3 to 1944 when it was sold to the Fairfax family.
It operated as a dairy in the 1920s-1930s and then, in 1946, under the Fairfax family’s ownership, it was operated as a poll hereford [sic] stud, nursery and dairy.
Harrington Park-Taylor Woodrow-Fairfax
The storyboard has a supplementary map of the Harrington Park property in the Cowpastures.
<info board pic>
Hidden in the past
Cavanaugh’s Cowpastures tells the story of the site and reveals the layers of the past to the viewer. Yet there is more to the story hidden in the shadows. Some of these hidden stories are hinted at, while others are still to be revealed. One example is the violence of the colonial frontier in the Cowpastures as the settler society project unfolded and Europeans took up territory from the Indigenous Dharawal. (Karskens 2015)
At Harrington Park Lakeside Cavanough has taken part in placemaking, wayfinding, memorialisation and urban development with her creation of Cowpastures. She has engaged in telling the cultural heritage and contributed to the construction of place and community identity in a new suburb, directed visitors to discover the stories of Cowpastures from the past in an aesthetic landscape setting, and celebrated the history of the site and the Europeans who farmed the land.
Cavanough, J. (2020). ” About Jane Cavanough.” Jane Cavanough Artlandish Art and Design. Retrieved 5 November 2021, from http://janecavanough.com.au/about/.
Council, N. B. (2019). Public Art Policy. Sydney, Northern Beaches Council.
Karskens, G. (2015). Appin Massacre. Dictionary of Sydney. Sydney NSW, State Library of New South Wales & City of Sydney.
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