Public art designed to reduce vandalism at Mona Vale has drawn criticism from residents groups.

A mural taking shape on the exterior of Mona Vale Memorial Hall (main image) at Park Street, Mona Vale, has taken local community groups by surprise, with ‘Friends of Mona Vale’ saying the partially completed artwork ‘is starting to look like Luna Park’.

The outdoor mural has been commissioned by Northern Beaches Council as part of the 2023 Street Art Program. The artist conducting the work, Gus Eagleton (image below), is a graduate of Fine Art from the Queensland College of Art with ten years of experience in public art.

Artist Gus Eagleton at Mona Vale Memorial Hall

Mr Eagleton, who was approached by the Northern Beaches Advocate at Mona Vale Memorial Hall yesterday afternoon (Saturday, 02 September), said the work would be ‘very reflective of Mona Vale’ when complete but did not provide any further details regarding the design.

An experienced public artist, Mr Eagleton has a large body of work to his name, including a number of mural walls. Some of his works include large scale murals on high-rise buildings (image below).

Mural by artist Gus Eagleton

The appearance of paint on the Mona Vale Memorial Hall has taken community groups by surprise however. Chair of the Mona Vale Residents Association Kelvin Auld expressed grave concern about painting the brickwork.

“Community members are concerned about the damage being done to Mona Vale Community Hall’s special brickwork. Rectification works will be required to get it back to the original high standard of brickwork that is a work of art in itself.

“We were led to believe that place making, including creative place making, was being developed as part of the Mona Vale Place Plan. Whereas there appear to be series of incremental council ‘improvement’ works and projects in Mona Vale that we thought would have been part of the Mona Vale Place Plan and involve community notification and engagement,” said Mr Auld.

Mural at Mona Vale Memorial Hall
Phil Walker

Phil Walker

Those views have been echoed by Friends of Mona Vale spokesperson Phil Walker, who expressed ‘outrage’ at the impact on a ‘war memorial hall’.

“The general policy must be not to paint over valuable face brickwork and change the character of important community buildings. Community members are outraged because it is a war ‘memorial hall’ to memorialise the loss of life and injury during war. This would never have happened under Pittwater Council,” said Mr Walker.

Mural at Mona Vale Memorial Hall

That concern is not shared by all within the community however, with a local business owner expressing frustration at constant damage to the buildings from graffiti vandalism.

A well-placed source within Council said the funding for the Street Art Program is directly targeted at vandalism hot spots, and the Mona Vale civic centre has been particularly badly impacted.

Graffiti at Mona Vale civic centre

Of the four hot spots funded under this year’s program, two are in the Mona Vale civic centre, within metres of each other. The other location, Mona Vale Village Green, was yesterday covered in graffiti ‘tags’ and empty bottles of alcohol (image above), and has been commissioned to Brisbane graffiti artist Russell Fenn (known as Sofles).

Mr Eagleton said part of the installation of the mural would be to engage youth in the process, and talk to them about the work, which he said had a high rate of preventing further graffiti vandalism.

The cost of the artwork at Mona Vale Memorial Hall was budgeted at $14k, and a further $20k is allocated for a mural at Mona Vale Village Green. The final design of the artwork at Mona Vale Memorial Hall remains undisclosed.

Mona Vale mural

However, Mona Vale is no stranger to large-scale outdoor mural artworks, such as ‘Midnight Dream‘ at 20 Bungan Street by indigenous visual artist David Cragg in September 2020 (image above); and ‘Marching to the Zoo’ at Modus Operandi Brewing Co, 14 Harkeith Street, by digital designer Juan Vivas (known as Graphico) and Brookvale-based visual artist Miguel Gonzalez (known as M-Lon) in July 2015 (image below).

Modus Operandi mural

Council has a chequered history with public art at Mona Vale, with the controversial ‘You are here‘ installation of sandstone blocks at Mona Vale headland cancelled in February 2023.

It is understood that cancelled artwork cost ratepayers $170k, and large sandstone blocks presumed to have been used in that work have been spotted at Avalon and also recently turned up as controversial traffic bollards at Scotland Island.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Gus Eagleton

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