Statement by Alice Spigelman AM, Chair of Sculpture by the Sea to Waverley Council Meeting 16 July 2019

Posted: July 18, 2019 / News

Sculpture by the Sea has a 22 year relationship with Waverley Council a relationship we keenly hope will continue.

At the outset I wish to state our organisation’s strongest possible support for accessibility.  This is why, despite our very limited resources, we have sought funding and been at the forefront nationally of developing access programs for outdoor cultural events for the past 10 years.  Many will attest to the wonderful experience provided to, now, over 500 people with disability and their carers last year and others over the last decade.

Sculpture by the Sea is a small not for profit organisation with limited means. We are unable to afford to pay the artists, not even for their freight to exhibit each year. They pay their own expenses at an average of $18,000 because they are inspired by the Bondi coastal walk. Without the artists there is no exhibition. 180 artists from 24 countries around the world have written to you on the devastating consequences of the proposed path on the exhibition. The artist’s voices should not be ignored.

Our organisation is committed to restoring the relationship with Council. We look to Council to show it wishes the same. Many recent statements made in the name of Waverley Council do not accord with our understanding of how and why the current predicament came about. We would not have raised our concerns with you in late May had we not been taken by surprise nor would we have gone to the media had we not felt all other options had run their course. To read in the Sydney Morning Herald that Sculpture by the Sea grew out of a small Council project is not helpful as it is simply not true.

To allow both organisations to move forward we recommend we stage this year’s exhibition and work towards restoring our good working relationship. This will also allow our board of directors the opportunity to work through the new draft license agreement terms that we received in the first week of July this year.  Given the significant cost and operational changes requested by Council we cannot commit the organisation to expenses required by these new clauses which might make the longer-term financial viability of the exhibition untenable and we wish to discuss these terms further.

Accordingly, it is difficult for the board to agree to a three year license agreement with Waverley Council.

I would like to express my appreciation to the many people who have been involved in seeking a resolution, trying, in good faith, to work through issues of concern to all of us, including Councillor Steven Lewis, The Mayor Councillor John Wakefield, former Labor Mayors especially Ingrid Strewe, the Liberal Councillors especially Sally Betts and Tony Kay and Walt Secord NSW Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Arts.

These discussions involve our stewardship of this great world-class exhibition and our responsibilities to visitors of all abilities to Marks Park and to the Coastal Walk.

This is why we offered a compromise solution on 13 June for the full circuit access path without going onto the ridgeline in any way.  This retains these key locations for sculptures and removes those sections of the path we, others and risk consultants say are dangerous without handrails.  This is why we advocate for an alternate and we believe far superior access path to the coastal walk.

In spite of the best endeavours of all parties over the past few days, some of these matters remain the subject of ongoing discussion.

As we are all acting in good faith, I am optimistic that we can reach agreement on the outstanding matters and we can find a way forward.

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