The Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival was honoured by a visit from the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, on Thursday 29th October.
Governor Beazley, accompanied by her husband Mr Dennis Wilson, was greeted by Cessnock City Mayor Bob Pynsent, Festival Director Susan Leith-Miller and Curator Wendy Black. Also attending the lunch that followed were restaurateur and sculpture devotee Armando Percuoco OAM, festival Senior Coordinator Jennifer Winten and sculptors Ron Robertson-Swann OAM and Ayako Saito.
After lunch, the Governor and Mr Wilson took a walking tour of the historic Wollombi Village. They visited several indoor exhibitions of smaller sculptures as well as viewing the larger outdoor pieces dotted among the heritage sandstone buildings.
The party then travelled to two local wineries, Stonehurst Cedar Creek and Undercliff, where they viewed more of the larger entries in a rural setting. The countryside is lush and green after recent rain, providing an atmospheric contrast with the angles and shapes of the sculptures.
The Governor said that she was delighted to visit the festival and impressed by the range and quality of the works on display. ‘It is such a beautiful and peaceful environment in which to view the sculptures,’ she said. ‘Especially when you think that under a year ago there were fires raging so close to the valley.’
The Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival is in its 18th year and is the longest regional outdoor sculpture exhibition in Australia, running for three weeks in spring. It celebrates contemporary sculpture in all its forms, from sophisticated, modernist art works to more whimsical and ephemeral pieces.
The judging panel this year was art critic and lecturer John McDonald and Sarah Johnson, Curator at Newcastle Art Gallery. 166 sculptures from 103 sculptors are on display out of a total of 300 entries, and all are available for purchase. They include works by a number of major prize winners at Sculpture by the Sea as well as other highly respected and emerging artists.
The festival is supported by Cessnock City Council, the Wollombi Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Wollombi Valley Progress Association, the Wollombi Valley Tennis Club and the Wollombi Valley Arts Council. Many local businesses and individual volunteers are also involved and make a crucial contribution to its operation.