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  • [CLOSED] National Call Out for Artists to Create a Signature Public Artwork in Yarrila Place

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    **EOI has now closed. A shortlist is being assessed with announcement to come in early in 2022**

    Artists are invited to submit proposals to create a signature public artwork for the new Yarrila Place building in Coffs Harbour.

    The formal process invites experienced public artists from across Australia to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) in accordance with the Artist Brief.

    Coffs Harbour Gallery & Museum Curator, Joanna Besley, said “Yarrila Place will put Coffs on the map as a cultural destination and world class public art is fundamental to our approach, with a major public art commission for the central vertical wall that rises through the building and can be viewed from throughout its distinctive atrium.

    “The curatorial approach for the signature public artwork aims to embrace the Indigenous and post-settlement history of the site while developing an engaging and captivating contemporary artwork with the theme of enlighten, reflecting the Gumbaynngirr meaning of Yarrila – to illuminate,” said Ms Besley.

    The EOI is now open and closes Monday 1 November 2021. Artists’ submissions will be evaluated in early November 2021 with a view to notifying a shortlist of three artists shortly afterwards. Shortlisted artists will be paid a fee to develop concept designs for a final artist selection in January 2022.

    Artists will be selected based on their existing professional practice and their ability to complete the commission within the available timeframe and budget.

    The signature public artwork project is being managed by Independent Arts Management alongside the Cultural and Civic Space Project Team.

    Independent Arts Management have a strong track record in working strategically with artists, developers, designers and local government to activate spaces with high quality artistic outcomes.

    The Expression of Interest document and brief is available here. This details all the evaluation criteria and further background to assist artists with proposals.

    Please note that all queries and responses should be sent to

    View the artist brief here.

    Further Background for Artists

    The Cultural and Civic Space Project presents an unparalleled opportunity to create a public artwork of significance and signal the arrival of an important new cultural space on the coast of NSW.

    Council has developed an integrated strategy for public art in the public spaces of the building, ensuring that Yarrila Place is an inclusive space for the whole Coffs community.

    This strategy has two distinct elements:

    • A Signature Public Artwork, which reflects the cultural nature of the building with an artwork of the highest aesthetic and conceptual quality and provides a point of focus for the building’s interior; and
    • The Track – a way-finding and architectural element that will ground visitors to the building in Gumbaynggirr country, with an associated Gumbaynggirr Art Trail featuring six artworks by artists from each of the Gumbaynggirr nation groups.
  • Official Building Naming Process Brings Light to Yarrila Place

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    At Council’s meeting on 9 September it was resolved to officially name the Cultural and Civic Space building Yarrila Place. Yarrila is a Gumbaynggirr word that means “illuminate / brighten / light up / illustrate”. This resolution was supported by all Councillors.

    Pronounced Yarrila (YAA-rila), the name was chosen as it speaks to Coffs’ bright future and the “illumination” and enjoyment of knowledge, arts and heritage and bringing the creativity of our community to light. The chosen name also hints at the light reflected from the ceramic foils of the building itself and the integrated skylight which brightens the internal atrium with natural light.

    The community consultation/engagement process undertaken showed a very clear desire by the Coffs community to use Gumbaynggirr language for the name.

    Coffs Harbour City Council Mayor Councillor Denise Knight said she was proud that is what the Coffs community pushed for and totally unprompted.

    “This result makes us all enormously proud of the Coffs community. We said we wanted reconciliation to be at the heart of this building and this will help us along that path.

    “We are inspired by the Gumbaynggirr people here on the Coffs Coast, the community brings such a richness to our experience of life and learning. And this name is perfect in the sense that it will shine a light on their culture even more.”

    From the workshops and other sources of data compiled by local firm saso.creative it was clear the name needed to encompass notions of learning, community, creativity and identity, and that a name of Gumbaynggirr origin would be highly regarded.


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    The CCS Project budget was previously set at $76.52m total project cost in June 2018. The project budget total end cost is now $81.27m ($4.75m / 6.2% increase) following 2.5 years of design development and subsequent lump sum offer by Lipman. The main contributor to the increased project cost is the greater than expected escalation in construction costs over the past two and a half years. The total end cost for CCS includes design and consultancy costs to-date, completion of the design, construction, construction contingency and demolition.

    To compare CCS Project costs with other developments, many factors must be catered for to make apples for apples comparisons:

    1. When in the project cycle was the cost measured? Perhaps at the end of the project or perhaps earlier estimates.
    2. How long ago was the cost measured? Construction costs escalate over time, sometimes in excess of CPI, so a cost measure from say 5 years ago would need significant escalation to compare to today (in the order of 15% to 20%).
    3. What is being included in the ‘cost’? Sometimes the total project cost, sometimes just construction, construction plus contingency, and potentially many other variations.
    4. How closely does the scope and quality of another project compare?

    Cost per square metre
    Based on total project cost (see Cost), the cost per square metre for the CCS development is approximately $5,875 ($81.27m and 13,835 square meters). The CCS development is approximately $5,100 per square meter for “construction cost” which includes builder and trade costs plus construction contingency held by Council.

    Who will do what during the construction period?
    During 2019 and 2020 the design work was led by BVN Architecture who developed the design to the 80% point. The proposed construction period for the CCS Project has two major parts – completion of the final 20% of design and the construction, hence the Design & Construct (D&C) contractual arrangement proposed for delivery of the building.

    To ensure that the valuable knowledge held by BVN and their design team is not lost as the builder delivers the building, BVN and the design team will be contracted to the builder for the whole construction period. The builder, BVN and the design team will finalise the design with Council input and Council retains a design decision role. The builder delivers the building in accordance with the agreed design. These arrangements are included in the total project end cost of $81.27m.

    How will costs be managed during the construction period?
    The Design & Construct (D&C) contract proposed sets a lump sum cost for the final 20% of design and the building works.

    While the last 20% of design is still to be done, the D&C lump sum offer will cover the final design work itself and delivery of the building to meet the design.

    While the builder is to be contracted to deliver the building for their stated lump sum price, there are some situations whereby additional cost could be incurred by the builder that Council would have to pay for, called variations. The main two types of variations are issues found in the ground while establishing the basement and building footings (ground conditions) and design changes that Council requests (client variations). Part of the $81.27m is an allocation of Council controlled construction contingency funds in case variations arise, however significant work has already been undertaken to minimise variations including:

    • Ground conditions – Over the last three years, geotechnical assessments have been done with ground samples being taken throughout the site as well as surveying of pipes and cables. These assessments have guided the structural design, however, until the excavation and footings are completed, no one can guarantee that there will be no unexpected issues.
    • Client variations – Significant effort and consultant fees have been invested over the last three years to get the design right, however experience across the construction sector tells us that sometimes our needs change over time and some of those changes may best be dealt with during construction.

    Should variations be proposed, there is a structured process defined under the proposed D&C contract for variation proposals to be justified, appropriately assessed for validity and cost, then, if Council and the builder agree, implemented.

  • The Cultural and Civic Space project timeline

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    In 2016 Council unanimously endorsed the Gordon Street site as the preferred location for the new library and gallery and resolved to undertake a detailed precinct analysis, consider the inclusion of the regional museum and to investigate mixed and civic uses for this site in order maximise the location.

    In 2017 Council endorsed Creative Coffs – Cultural Strategic Plan and the Precinct Analysis to progress through to the concept design phase. At this stage, the Council offices were included in the scope.

    Between December 2017 and March 2018, a comprehensive stakeholder and community engagement consultation and information campaign asked stakeholders for feedback on three separate concept designs.

    At the June 2018 Council Meeting the report detailing the Concept Business Case and outcome of the community engagement on the three concept designs - to identify key features that people wanted incorporated in the new building - was endorsed to progress to the next stage; a single schematic design. At this point, the Regional Museum was also included in the project.

    In early 2019, broad community engagement was undertaken on the preliminary schematic design created by BVN Architecture.

    The outcomes of the consultation were incorporated into the final schematic design report which was presented to Council in July 2019.

    The 25 July Council Meeting was adjourned until 8 August 2019.

    At the 8 August Council Meeting the Councillors resolved to proceed with the Cultural and Civic Space Project by: 1. Allocating full project funding of $76.52 million, 2. Lodging a development application, 3. Disposing of the nominated properties 4. Procuring the build through a two stage design and construct contract.

    At the 13 February Council Meeting, the Councillors approved the tenders for Project Manager, Head Design Consultant and Cost Manager. The demolition DA for 23-31 Gordon Street was also approved.

    As a result of this decision, and the appointment of these key contracts, the detailed design phase of the Cultural and Civic Space project officially began.

    On 30 November 2020, the NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, approved the Development Application (DA) for the new Cultural and Civic Space.

  • Cultural and Civic Space State Significant Development Application approved

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    Coffs Harbour City Council can now confirm the NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, has approved the Development Application (DA) for the new Cultural and Civic Space. For more information go here.

  • Quick chat with Jane Tavener

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    For those who don’t know you, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

    Since March 2020 I’ve been the acting General Manager as well as the Social Enterprise Coordinator for Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, which also includes its commercial arm, the National Aboriginal Design Agency. I love the simple life with my family around me and lots of peace and quiet, but I keep getting involved in big creative projects! Last year I created Botanica as a fundraising event for my Heart and Soul Foundation, which was one of the best things I’ve ever made – apart from my daughters!

    What are you passionate about – what gets you out of bed in the morning?

    I love working and making a difference in the community, particularly the arts and cultural community. I feel incredibly lucky with the work I’m currently doing, where I get to work with creative people in projects that support our Aboriginal communities, and also vulnerable women in our community through the Heart and Soul Foundation projects. I am passionate about supporting the development of the Coffs Coast as a hub for really great, innovative and creative events.

    What do you think is the value of supporting cultural and arts development in a place like Coffs Harbour?

    Our area has an incredibly beautiful natural environment – people already want to come here, and culture and arts add value to that experience. If Coffs Harbour becomes an amazing creative hub, it will draw different kinds of people to attend our awesome film festivals or arts events. There is great value in supporting a really valuable industry which generates a lot of money in Australia, as well as nourishing our local Gumbaynggirr culture and artists. I think lockdown showed how important the arts are to all of us, with powerful positive effects on our health and wellbeing, as well as opportunities for business and tourism.

    What would you say to the people who are worried about the project?

    Right now, we don’t know what we don’t have. We have the cultural facilities that we have, and they’ve done really well considering their limitations, but it’s hard for the community to imagine the world class facilities we will have with this new purpose built facility. If you don’t know where Italy is you can never go there. We don’t really know where Italy is at the moment. I understand that people are worried about their rates and other issues, but I would like people to be open minded and let this be something incredibly wonderful for us.

    What excites you about the Cultural and Civic Space project?

    People have moved out of Coffs to live in other areas which have more arts and cultural opportunities, and this is our chance to have these kinds of opportunities right here, right now. There are a lot of people focusing on the regions now because of the pandemic – how exciting for us that Coffs is creating a really vibrant and creative arts community at this time

  • Cultural and Civic Space gives the community a rooftop oasis

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    This is a rooftop oasis which will allow everyone to enjoy our beautiful natural Coffs environment.

    The doors of the multipurpose room will open onto the rooftop garden with community members being able to spill out to enjoy the view.

    Once every two weeks, the room will be transformed for Thursday night Council meetings. Unlike the existing Council Chamber, which usually sits unused in between meetings, this room will be mostly a community event space,

    Click here to read more:

  • Community curators to uncover Coffs Harbour's hidden histories

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    Thanks to a $72,300 grant for the Regional Museum announced today by the NSW Government’s Minister for the Arts, Coffs Harbour’s ‘hidden’ histories can be uncovered and given their rightful place in the story of our local heritage.

    For more information, read the whole article here

    Article image from the Stories to Freedom exhibition by And the Trees Photography.

  • Q&A with Kerry Grace

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    For those people who don’t know you, tell me a little bit about yourself.

    My name is Kerry Grace, I’m a 7th generation Mid-North coast resident, and I’m the CEO of Regional Development Australia Mid North Coast and Evolve Group Network.

    What are you passionate about?

    I’m passionate about everyday leaders and empowering them to implement their community-led solutions. In my experience, people who live in a community know what needs to happen and they know what works and what doesn’t. I believe change should be implemented from the ground up rather than from the top down.

    What is the potential for a project like this to benefit Coffs Harbour in particular and more widely the Coffs Coast?

    Art and cultural are central to the economic viability of any community offering unique experiences to our visitors and engaging attractions for our locals. The value of creative industries is often under-estimated in regional Australia. In the Mid North Coast the sector contributes an estimated $29.7M to the economy (Source ABS) and employs 1,270 people. This does not incorporate the additional revenue and jobs created in ancillary industries such as hospitality and accommodation which also benefit via creative industries.

    What do you think is the particular value of cultural development in a place like the mid-north coast?

    When I grew up in a small community in the Mid North Coast the only currency was sport. And for the kids that weren’t really into sport there wasn’t a lot of choice. The development of game-changing amenities such as the one proposed by Coffs Harbour City Council really places creative industries front and centre. It sends a message that we are a sophisticated, forward thinking and inclusive region.

    What excites you about this project?

    I’m particularly excited for young people because it enables them to aspire to something greater. It shows them that people in charge are thinking about the future and not stuck in the past.

    What would you say to the people who are worried about this project?

    I’d say to them: as I travel around regional communities and ask them what makes their community unique, what they often tell me is exactly the same as what their neighbours offer: our natural beauty: beautiful beaches, hinterland and creeks. There is no doubt this is lovely, however to stand out we really need something that is actually unique, something offered via the creative industries. The leadership Coffs Harbour City Council has shown in this project makes me proud to live on the Coffs Coast. To me, this project embodies the vibrancy of the Coffs Harbour community.

  • Take a look inside our new building!

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    The first illustrations of the Cultural and Civic Space have been released, giving us a glimpse inside the current design for the new building,

    The first images to be shown are of the children’s area in the library at ground floor level, and the internal street that flows through the building from one side to the other.

    The children’s area is vibrant and dynamic with a character of its own. There will be different reading nooks and spaces for Storytime to capture and inspire the imaginations of our little Coffs people and their families.

    The image of the internal street within the building is looking from Gordon Street through to Riding Lane. It shows the light-filled three-dimensional space with the library and other functions looking over into the central space, with a striking circular skylight. This urban passageway will provide free flowing access throughout the day and evening.

    For more information, see the media release on the Council newsroom website