Stained glass panel leaves its mark on community

Photo courtesy of photographer Rene Baur​.

THE historic stained glass panel previously located at the old Greenmount Library has been restored to its former glory and installed at its new home at Boya Community Centre.

The much-loved community art project now stands proudly inside the complex at the entrance to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Library.

Shire President John Daw said he was pleased to see the widely admired panel on display in the shire once again.

"It's wonderful to see the panel, which carries significant community sentiment, back on display as a welcoming statement at the entrance to our new library," he said.

"This is a community project that's reflective not only of the artistic talent in our region but the community spirit we have here in the Perth hills."

"I'd like to congratulate Shire staff, in particular, building maintenance officer Bruce McLennan and manager building assets Rene Baur for their careful and considered approach to restoring and installing this important community artwork," added Cr Daw.

Led by project director and artist Judy Kotai, the colourful panel was coordinated by Mundaring Arts Centre in two stages between 1985 and 1988. The first stage engaged local primary school children who worked with artists to create small bird and animal designs. Stage 2 was a collaboration between Judy Kotai, Andy Keefe, Sue Tingay, Louis Jacomelli, Kit Mitton and many others.

Altogether the work involved 50 to 60 people and took 20 weeks to complete. It was installed at Greenmount Library on 9 July 1988, and opened by Bruce Callow.

Ms Kotai said she was pleased to see the panel, which tells its own unique story, in pride of place at the entrance to the new library.

"I am obviously very relieved to see the glass back on display in a space where it can be shared by the community," Ms Kotai said.   

"Some stories are told using words and some in pictures, as can be seen in the history displayed in the windows of the great cathedrals of Europe, for example. What better place for a stained glass panel than at the entrance to a library? Hopefully it will live on as part of the Shire's story well into the future."

Ms Kotai explained the project had seen many people with different artistic perspectives come together to create the finished product.

"It was impressive to see how well people with quite diverse backgrounds came together harmoniously with the shared intent of completing this project. It exists now to be enjoyed by its creators, their families and friends, and the wider community," she said.

Water as a resource is a central theme in the panel's design, which depicts Mundaring Weir.

"The water [flows] on bringing forth and sustaining other life forms and the whole panel then represents the harmonious connection between the water and the environment," observed Ms Kotai.

"Aboriginal culture is represented by the inclusion of a large and benign Rainbow Serpent. However it is important to mention that everyone who looks at the panel will – if it is doing its job – come up with their own unique ideas and interpretations. All these multiple interpretations are equally valid."

When asked about the importance of projects like the panel, Ms Kotai said it was the personal connections they helped form and shared appreciation of culture that made community art so special.

"Culture is the element within all societies that 'glues' that society together, allows it to function and keeps it strong. The visual arts in general, provide a means of self-expression, communication as well as entertainment and pleasure," she said.

"Community art is particularly important to me in that it provides not only for people to view art but to actually participate. This leads to a much deeper understanding and appreciation, builds skills and confidence and leads to links and networks between people who may not, at face value, have thought they had much in common."

The panel can be viewed next to Katharine Susannah Prichard Library inside Boya Community Centre, 119-135 Scott Street, Boya. Check the Shire website for the library's opening hours.

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