Greater Geelong Public Art Strategy - Executive Summary

The Public Art Strategy has been developed in recognition that the City of Greater Geelong has a long history and a strong ongoing commitment to commissioning artworks for public spaces across the Municipality.


The City has a significant Public Places Art Collection [the Collection] of artworks and monuments – one of the largest in Victoria – in its parks, foreshores and streets and Council wishes to guide the ongoing maintenance of existing artwork and the strategic commissioning of new artwork.

Art can play a key role in creating quality public places, telling local stories and expressing civic pride. Public art has a further role to play developing cohesive communities and enhancing cultural identity. The role of art in urban design, place making and spatial activation is also widely recognised for community benefits of: increased public safety; an improved sense of community connection, ownership and care for the civic environment; community confidence; and increased levels of use resulting in greater passive surveillance of public facilities. Public art benefits will contribute to Council’s objectives established in its City Plan and the cultural vision for the City of Greater Geelong as stated in its Cultural Strategy Creativity:

'…to be a regional cultural centre of innovation and excellence.'


The City of Greater Geelong is a large, diverse municipality located one hour from Melbourne on the South Western side of Port Phillip Bay. Spanning from the You Yangs mountain range in the North to the Bellarine Peninsula in the South, the City includes seaside, rural, urban and industrial environments and a correspondingly diverse range of communities with vastly different occupations and interests. The Municipality also caters for a large number of visitors all year round. Geelong is Victoria’s largest regional city and is situated on beautiful Corio Bay and the Barwon River. Some years ago, Geelong was the main port for processing and exporting primary produce from Victoria’s Western District. It has a rich architectural, maritime and industrial heritage and many of the impressive characteristics of a growing international city.

The Municipality however is in transition from a manufacturing base to a more service focussed economy. With a current population of approximately 218,000, the growth of new industries as well as new employment precincts and the construction of new community estates such as Armstrong Creek, means the City is forecast to grow by at least another 66,000 in the next decade.

These rapid changes across the Geelong region, along with a range of other socio-economic factors, present opportunities and challenges for the Municipality’s future community and cultural development and for its arts and cultural industries. For example, the City’s growing collection of public art, the Collection, in publicly accessible spaces across the Municipality, provides vital points of focus for local community, adding richness and cultural depth to community events, tourism and economic development initiatives. However, inclusion of public art projects in new developments is occurring unchecked and without consistent process or curatorial guidance. Growth and change has also brought the issues of environmental sustainability, local identity and community connectedness to the fore.

The Municipality, has a vibrant cultural life with a year-round calendar of public events. Several significant cultural institutions currently operate within Geelong including the National Wool Museum, Geelong Gallery, Geelong Library, Geelong Heritage Centre, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Old Courthouse Building and Costa Hall, all of which contribute greatly to the cultural life of the City. Potential strategic connections with these institutions are vital considerations for the future direction of the City’s public art programme, particularly during re-development of the Cultural Precinct.

The Geelong Gallery is highly regarded across Australia for both its 18th and 19th century contemporary art collections and exhibition programme. There is a key opportunity to build on this aspect of Geelong’s cultural reputation by developing the City’s Public Art Collection. There is also rapidly growing interest and awareness of art in public environments from economic and tourism perspectives. Now seen as a source of civic pride, a representation of cultural richness, diversity and sophistication it is central to the animation of place in a unique way. It can be an important draw card for visitors and provides significant direct and indirect economic benefits.

The existing Collection is varied including artwork which ranges from war memorials to contemporary sculpture. This collection is evidence of over 100 years of support for monuments and artworks in Geelong’s public realm, with many of the early civic works being funded through public subscriptions. Major public infrastructure improvements to the Central Geelong Waterfront (including significant artworks such as ‘North’ (2000) by Mark Stoner, ‘Cargo Boxes’ (2000) by Maggie Fooks and Bill Perin and the ‘Geelong Bollards Trail’ (1995) by Jan Mitchell), have engaged the community and provided insight into the potential benefits that public art can bring to the City.

In recent years the City has also commissioned temporary, performance based artworks and independent arts and cultural events aimed at strengthening communities and associations. These include: ‘Connecting Identities’, in particular ‘Mouth to Mountain’; and major public events such as the 2010 UCI Road World Championships. Commercial property developers are also increasingly interested in including public art in their development projects.

There is growing need for establishment of principles and guidelines to consolidate ongoing efforts directed towards the development and maintenance of the City’s Collection. These will be central to the formation of curatorial directions for public place art programmes and their strategic alignment with other Council agendas such as its Community Safety Plan and Sustainable Communities – Infrastructure Development Guidelines.

Policy Context

There are a wide range of Council planning and regulatory documents relevant to the planning and implementation of public art. The two most relevant for this Strategy are the current Cultural Strategy and City Plan.

Creativity + City of Greater Geelong Culture Strategy

The existing cultural plan provides a broad structure for approaching cultural activity across the whole local government area. The document includes the following Position Statement:

To position the City of Greater Geelong as a regional cultural centre of innovation and excellence.

The City of Greater Geelong is a municipality with great cultural strengths. Council wants to build on these strengths and raise the municipality’s profile as a creative region, encourage greater participation, and strengthen the cultural sector and its contribution to the municipality’s prosperity.

Culture plays a crucial role in helping to build a more sustainable community. It enriches the quality of life for residents and increases the attractiveness of the look and feel of the City.

Strategy areas include: Cultural Infrastructure; Nurturing Individual Creativity; Culture for All; Cultural Economy: and Cultural leadership. Direct references to Public Art are made in the Cultural Infrastructure actions section of the strategy and they include:

  • CI 4 Investigate making a commitment to expenditure on public art as part of the total cost of relevant capital projects.
  • CI 5 Include an expectation or an encouragement in the development approvals process for an allocation to public art in significant private sector or government developments

City Plan 2009-2013

The City Plan 2009-2013 is structured around three strategic directions: Community Wellbeing; Growing the Economy; and Sustainable Built and Natural Environment. Each of these strategic directions has a direct relevance to the Public Art Strategy and has informed the development of the proposed Outcome Areas and this relationship can be demonstrated for an assessment of potential community benefit.

Geelong: coast, country and suburbs is the best place to live through prosperous and cohesive communities in an exceptional environment. City Plan 2009 - 2013


The Public Art Strategy has been developed following extensive consultation across Council departments, the arts and private sectors as well as the general public in order to provide a structure for future planning of permanent and temporary public place art commissions and to support the ongoing management of the existing collection. A period of one month allowed for further broad comment consultation and feedback.

Through the process of consultation as well as investigation of national and international best practice, the Strategy is intended to guide the procurement and management of an engaging, inspiring public artwork collection for the local, national and international audience.


The Public Art Strategy aims to engage and inspire artists and diverse audiences in innovative and enchanting creative endeavours and to encourage meaningful and lively celebration of the City’s culture and environments. Whilst honouring its cultural heritage, the public art programme will help to define perceptions of the City’s identity now and into the future.

The vision, which has been developed specifically for the Public Art Strategy, is:

Public Art in the City of Greater Geelong will express local cultures and histories; foster creativity and innovation; and enhance and activate public spaces across the municipality.

This vision recognises that the primary goal of public art in Geelong is to enhance and activate public spaces, through giving expression to the stories of people and their places. Our city, towns and open spaces can provide a platform for people to come together to share their experiences and build community cohesion.

To help achieve this, Council wishes to further develop its collection/programme through various forms of public art practice: permanent and ephemeral; stand alone and projects integrated with developments and events. Realisation of this objective will also address the considerable public interest and expectation for inclusion of public art linked to place making initiatives in new communities.

Artwork and events focused on art production and exhibition in the public arena also bring recognisable benefits in health and well being through the promotion of active lifestyles, recreation and environmental awareness, all of which encourage the development of social cohesion and resilient communities. This Strategy aligns with other Council strategies and initiatives in support of these benefits and facilitates exploration and development of creative opportunities for their realisation.

The Public Art Strategy provides a series of goals and actions to aid integration of public art practice into urban and community development processes such as town planning, place making initiatives, sustainable/resilient community development and design practices and event management. This integration is vital to the success of the Strategy, delivering demonstrable community benefit across the entire Municipality.

In recent years, due to the growing recognition of the need to establish an ongoing maintenance programme for the Public Art Collection, there has been a significant effort made to document and undertake condition assessments of the Collection. Improved understanding of the Collection value and what is required to maintain it in the future will help to ensure that the works are kept in an acceptable condition to ensure their longevity. Recent assessments have established that the current Collection is valued for insurance at approximately $13.5M.

By drawing on national and international best practice, the Strategy promotes engaging, inspiring public artwork for the local, national and international audiences and will help to ensure strategic direction for the Collection including community and industry contributions to it. This research has also informed the recommendations made for development of appropriate delivery and possible funding mechanisms for the City of Greater Geelong.

The community benefit guidelines addresses potential approaches to the review and assessment of the public art programme. The focus is on ways to identify potential ‘Community Benefit’ as a result of the public art commissioning process, creation and final contribution of the finished artwork, be it permanent or temporary, to people and place. Ongoing development of measures to gauge the success of the practical implementation processes proposed in Part B – Process will also of vital importance for the realisation of the Part A – Vision goals. Addition research of international best practice for the establishment of methodologies to measure the ‘Community Benefit’ of projects is recommended.


The Strategy is structured in two sections: Part A – Vision; and Part B - Process

Part A – Vision is comprised of two frameworks:

Framework 1: Activation, creativity and expression

This framework provides a range of goals and actions associated with the planning of new artworks in public places. This section encompasses strategies to support a diversity of public art practice including, but not limited to, the commissioning of stand-alone sculptural works, artworks integrated in civic infrastructure and temporary public art activities.

Outcome Area 1: Activation - creating unique and vibrant places
The Activation goals focus on both Council initiated projects for enhancing public spaces as well as encouraging others in the community to make their contribution to the City through public art projects.

The key goals are:

  • To initiate, partner and support the commissioning of artworks that contribute to the development of a unique ‘sense of place’ or that enhance the public realm.
  • To activate public spaces by providing and curating a series of both physical and digital ‘platforms’ in public spaces across the City that can feature a programme of changing artwork.
  • To support and facilitate a greater level of artist and community initiated projects in the public realm.

Outcome Area 2: Creativity – generating a ‘creative milieu’

The Creativity goals focus on mechanisms through which individuals and groups can be supported to develop their creativity and enrich the City’s public places. It is also about providing opportunities for professional development for “creatives” in the community.

The key goals are:

  • To support and nurture a culture of creativity and innovation within Council’s urban and open space planning, delivering and managing teams.
  • To support and nurture an environment that encourages creativity and innovation across the full range of public art practice.
  • To initiate, partner and support programmes and practices that help build both the cultural and creative capacity and the economic and environmental sustainability of art practice related to Geelong’s public realm.

Outcome Area 3: Expression – giving voice to people, place and environment
The Expression goals focus on encouraging public artworks that can contribute to the ongoing narrative about a place and its people; their histories, their aspirations and changing social, cultural and environmental values within the context of the current global environmental crisis.

The key goals are:

  • To initiate and support art projects in public places that involve storytelling and personal histories of the people of Geelong that can be enjoyed by the community and visitors.
  • To support the development of connections across the Municipality’s diverse communities and environments through the preservation of memory and respect for individual interpretation and personal expression.
  • To initiate and support art projects that contribute to place making across the city and suburbs, coast, country and industrial environments.

Framework 2: delivering, resourcing and preserving

This framework relates to both new and existing artworks. The goals and actions will provide Council, the private sector and the arts community with a clear structure to work with when exploring potential art opportunities. This section makes a number of key recommendations associated with Council procedures and possible mechanisms of funding artwork programmes.

Outcome Area 4: Delivering – planning and managing
The Delivering goals address internal Council staffing and management requirements; establishment of advisory and selection committees; and a technical review group. It will also inform the processes required of private sector commissioned and artist initiated projects.

The key goals are:

  • To provide robust and effective planning, management practices and structures to all Council initiated and delivered public place art projects.
  • To support and partner with the private sector to ensure the commissioning of high quality and conceptually relevant public place art on private development projects across the City.
  • To support and facilitate art interventions in public spaces that help to build on the vitality of the City and showcase the creativity of the public art sector.

Outcome Area 5: Resourcing – providing for people and projects

The Resourcing goals propose a range of funding options for: sector development activities; temporary artwork projects; and appropriate funding mechanisms for artworks associated with Capital Works projects including ongoing asset management.

The key goals are:

  • To provide adequate human and financial resources to effectively deliver on the stated goals of this Public Art Strategy.
  • To seek funding for public place art projects and sector development programmes from potential government, business and private sources.
  • To establish the resources required to build artist and audience participation in research, debate and discourse that raises community appreciation of public art.

Outcome Area 6: Preserving – maintaining and conserving

The Preserving goals propose the establishment of a comprehensive asset management programme including technical reviews of new works, asset registers, condition reporting and maintenance standards.

The key goals are:

  • To ensure that Council has an accurate and effective asset management system for recording and assessing its public art collection.
  • To establish best practice processes for the future asset management of new commissioned artworks.
  • To raise awareness of the City of Greater Geelong’s public art collection and the values that public art can contribute to people and place.

Part B – Process:

The development of a Public Art Priority Plan for the municipality to establish future directions and guide growth of Council’s Collection of artworks in public places, for a period up to ten years, is a key recommendation made in Part A. The Priority Plan will help to ensure that the City of Greater Geelong’s Collection of artworks in public places remains focussed on the Strategy’s Vision and relevant to Community interests whilst building on the municipality’s reputation for cultural excellence and diversity.

An annual review of the Priority Plan would be conducted by the Arts & Culture Department in collaboration with relevant departments, to monitor progress in the delivery of the Strategy objectives and to set out the programme of activities for the coming year.

This section provides implementation guidelines for the commissioning of public artworks by Council, established in Part A – Vision and outlines Council’s expectations of the private sector in relation to commissions in publicly accessible places particularly where commissioned artworks will be transferred to Council ownership as part of a development project.

The guideline areas are:

Guideline Area 1: Public Art Planning

  • Opportunity Matrix – The guidelines propose a method for establishing project types and Municipal priorities.
  • Process Matrix – The guidelines align project types with appropriate processes and approval levels.

Guideline Area 2: Indicative Commissioning Process

  • Council Initiated Stand Alone Projects
  • Council Initiated Integrated Projects
  • Non Council Initiated Projects
  • Council Funded Aerosol Art Projects

Guideline Area 3: Community Benefit Assessment

The guidelines establishes potential approaches to the review and assessment of public art projects by identifying ‘Community Benefit’ achieved as a result of the public art commissioning process, creation and final contribution of the finished artwork, be it permanent or temporary, to people and place.

Guideline Area 4: Moral Rights

The guidelines focus on issues to do with an artist’s Moral Rights as defined by the Copyright Act and how these rights apply to the alteration, relocation or removal of an artwork.

Guideline Area 5: Asset Management

The guidelines set out a range of approaches to the ongoing ownership and maintenance of Council’s Collection of art in public places as a valuable Council asset.

Connecting People, Place and Environment

A public art strategy for the City of Greater Geelong


Page last updated: Wednesday, 27 April 2022