This morning, it was announced that international artist Jason deCaires Taylor will travel to Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to begin feasibility research for Australia’s first underwater art museum.
The concept is one that Jason is renowned for, after designing and installing similar pieces around the globe. However, never before has it been included in what is already one of the world’s seven natural wonders.
At the announcement, member of Townsville Enterprise Board of Directors and General Manager of SeaLink Queensland, Paul Victory, said the proposed installation would include sculptures able to be seen from the Strand, as well as more significant sites further afield.
“The planned scoping study will answer where the museum will be, but we’re planning signature pieces on the Strand and the snorkel trail on Magnetic Island. They’ll be publicly-accessible and inter-tidal, so you’ll be able to walk down the Strand and see them,” said Paul.
“The pieces in the Palm Island group and outer Great Barrier Reef will be snorkel and dive sites – Jason’s work in these dive sites is [expected to be] the main driver of economic activity as it’s not just one art piece; we’re talking about an installation of art on the ocean floor in around 10-15m of water.
“This is a great product extension of the Great Barrier Reef, and isn’t a duplication of anything we already have. In particular, it’s an extension of our education tourism: we are the heart of marine education and research with James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, so this product adds to that. There’s the opportunity for Indigenous education pieces around the Palm Island group and climate change and reef education pieces on the outer Great Barrier Reef.
“It is expected the installation will start in 2018. Jason is very busy with work in China, so is a matter of fitting us in. It will be a three-month build, which is something else we’re looking at being a part of the tourism experience: Townsville as a sculpture site.
While not confirmed, TL hopes the build would involve as many locals as possible – in a local space and featuring local figures in the sculptures. The question remains of whether local artists would be invited to contribute, however benefits for the region were obvious.
“Jason’s work in Mexico at the Cancun National Park has attracted over 400,000 additional visitors to the park. This really is a marine tourism opportunity of significant value,” Paul said.
“But it’s about our investment – how much money we can find in terms of a public-private partnership to put into this art. But that’s the foundation by which we’re moving forward – it’s not attracting one or two hundred new people, but tens or even hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“We’re looking to provide funds not just for a feasibility and scoping study but to fund the project in the long run – so looking to attract $2 million. The economic benefit for the region is more significant than that, with the tourism expected to double and triple that amount.”
Jason deCaires Taylor will visit Townsville and the region from 6-15 July to begin a scoping and feasibility study, with the first sculpture installations proposed to be completed and installed next year.