The Port Macquarie Hastings region has been populated with 65 large-scale koala sculptures (as at November 2018), manufactured in fibreglass and featuring original designs, hand painted by selected artists.
Hello Koalas is a bold, ambitious and imaginative sculpture project, which celebrates one of Australia’s iconic animals – the Koala. Above all, it is designed to generate a sense of fun and surprise for everyone who comes across one of the creatively decorated koalas resting in parkland, lazing by the river, waiting outside the shops, or playing with children.
In 2012, following a visit to Hull in the UK to scope the benefits of a public sculpture signature cultural event for Greater Port Macquarie, Margret Meagher, Project Director of Hello Koalas commissioned a documentary film to interview key stakeholders in the Larkin with Toads project in 2010, to provide validation and testimonials for the Hello Koalas public sculpture project which Toads inspired.
The koala image links with the region’s high profile connection to koala habitation and conservation, including the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie and the NSW Koala Conservation Society. The Hello Koalas sculpture mould was a labour of love for Melbourne based artist, Ben Walsh. Ben worked in close consultation with Cheyne Flanagan, Supervisor at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Not all koalas have the same features, and this is largely determined by geographic location. We are very proud to say that the Hello Koalas sculpture has all the features of a true blue Port Macquarie Hastings koala!
AHA appointed Craft Fibreglass to manufacture the sculptures. The enthusiastic team at Craft Fibreglass took the images shown here and diligently captured the entire manufacturing process. One of the Craft people John Belfield, re-located from Sydney to John’s River near Port Macquarie, in 2018 and now our Hello Koalas sculptures are made locally which we are excited about. John is a great asset to the Hello Koalas team.
Each sculpture required the components to be moulded in manageable segments, and fabricated together with fibreglass to make up the complete form of each figure. It is a very labour intensive process. The sculptures have been manufactured according to AS/NZS/ISO 9001 Quality Assurance accreditation.
All the sculptures are one metre in height, the width is approx 57cm and the length is 87cm. The Koala mould is manufactured from fibreglass. The sculptures are secured to concrete or timber plinths, which are generally 20cm high and 1.5 metres square. The plinths include a plaque, which displays the design title, the artist’s name and the sponsor, including the Principal sponsor – Port Macquarie Hastings Council.
Animal sculpture projects all around the world use a simplified and stylised animal shape. They do not aim to replicate all the detail of the animal (e.g. fur, hair etc), instead they give an accurate, but generalized impression, which provides a smooth surface and clean lines for the artist to apply their design.
The fabrication of the sculptures is designed to cope with weathering and handling by the public. Research shows that vandalism is not generally a major issue where public sculptures are seen as valuable assets of a community and there is a strong community ownership in the project.
All koala sculptures are finished with a primer by the manufacturer and ready to paint. Over 150 submissions were received from artists and 50 designs were selected. High quality fine art paints by Australian manufacturer Derivan, have been used by artists to convey their designs onto the fibreglass sculptures. A varnish has then been applied before a final coating to protect the sculptures from graffiti and the weather.