Toolangi Sculpture Trail
In 1996, nine artists from Australia and across the Asia-Pacific were selected to create the first ever Sculpture Trail in the Toolangi Forest. The sculptors created installations using materials sourced predominantly from the forest, drawing from their own cultural heritage, and from the surrounding environment. Some responded to environmental concerns around maintaining a stable climate and healthy biosphere, with a focus on the importance of rivers and forests. Others explored ideas around a sense of place, acknowledging humanity’s need for wild places as a source for meditation and connection with the natural world. The 1996 event created great international interest and gained the support of UNESCO (Paris) as well as support from the Australia Council, Victorian State Government, Arts Victoria, Sidney Myer Foundation and the Shire of Murrindindi.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the international sculpture event, Toolangi Sculpture Trail 2016 was mounted. Over a two-week period in November, a number of Victorian artists were immersed in the stunning forests of Toolangi, surrounding the Forest Discovery Centre. Each artist created work of a permanent or ephemeral nature, responding to the surrounding environment, and contemporary environmental and cultural concerns. Toolangi means ‘stringy bark trees’, and it is a meeting point on the Great Dividing Range of the Taungurung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.
Artists and community were welcomed to country through Tanderrum, a traditional ceremony to allow safe passage, with temporary access and use of land. The Taungurung and Wurundjeri people brought together concepts of pride, culture and spirit with the work symbolising the coming together of people through dance, story, and ceremony.
Throughout the two weeks of the event visitors were welcome to observe, and in some cases assist, the artists in residence, and also participated in the creation of a community sculpture located at the end of the trail. School children from throughout the region were guided through the creation of totemic sculptures and taken on tours to learn about the flora and fauna of the forests.
In addition to the new works commissioned, surviving sculptures from the 1996 event were sensitively restored and the trail itself was weeded and tidied, giving it a new lease on life.
The event ended with the gifting of the 2016 sculptures to the State of Victoria, in a closing ceremony that celebrated the diversity of our community and our connection to nature. Indigenous elders shared stories of country, while the children of Toolangi Primary School illustrated the stories through puppetry and performance.
Adapted from a brochure produced by the Toolangi Sculpture Trail 2016 Committee