As you wander around Walcha, a charming New England town comprised of a main street and a smattering of houses, you begin to notice a theme: sculptures.
They appear subtly at first: an ornately carved wooden totem near the supermarket, an especially pretty park bench on the main street. But wander long enough and the pattern is undeniable. Unless there’s some other explanation for that giant humpback whale breaching the lush green grass beside the river…
So how did this quaint country become a living, breathing art gallery?
It began back in 1996 when Walcha Council was approached by a local farmer and sculptor, Stephen King, to collaborate to create a fountain sculpture in the centre of town. The council’s decision to accept his offer and install Walcha’s first sculpture lead to the establishment of the Walcha Arts Council to facilitate an ongoing public art program. The concept came to be known as the Open Air Gallery.
There are over 55 sculptures in total, featuring the works of local, national and international artists. Comprised of wood, steel and even basalt columns, the art works feature motifs of totems and human characters, as well as creatures of the sky and sea.
Most are located in the elements around town, but a few are located at the Council chambers and the Visitor Information Centre. The latter is a good first port of call for a brochure detailing each artwork, which serves as a wonderful self-guided tour around this lovely little town.