McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery is a wonderful place to take children with inquisitive imaginations to inspire, enjoy and create. Here they can explore the natural bushland, look for native wildlife, watch the ducks on the ornamental lake, take part in art programs and be amazed by some of the giant sculptures within this 16 hectare park.
By: Lorraine Aitken
The gallery first opened in 1971 as the result of a bequest from Nan McClelland in honour of her brother, Harry McClelland, an artist and philanthropist. The sites potential for a sculpture park was envisioned by then secretary Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, a passionate gardener, local resident (Cruden Farm) and philanthropist.
As a trustee, board member and major benefactor, Dame Elisabeth played a major role in making the McClelland Gallery and sculpture park what it is today. In honour of the Dame’s tireless contribution over her lifetime the Elisabeth Murdoch Walk was opened in June 2011 to coincide with the gallery’s 40th anniversary. The pathway links the 100 permanent sculptures through the native bushland and landscaped gardens around the McClelland Park.
One of the most prominent of the 100 plus permanent sculptures as well as being one of the most popular is “The Tree of Life”, A 10 metre high wind-activated kinetic sculpture which has reference to the eucalypt tree. Most locals will recall seeing the tree located at Cranbourne Frankston Rd as a part of the Peninsula Link sculpture collection before it was relocated in mid-2015 to make way for the ‘Chrome Gnome’. At the time there was an outpouring from the community about losing the tree from the site but I think the sculpture park is the perfect place for the 130,000+ annual visitors to get up close and watch the tree as it moves in the wind.
Some of the other amazing sculptures include my favourite Ken Unsworth’s ‘Annulus’ (Latin for little ring). I can best describe it as a large circle of gravity defying river stones that looks particularly stunning when the sun is shining at the right angle to catch the wires holding the sculpture in place. Others include Geoffrey Ricardo’s life size copper rhinoceros entitled Anno Domino and John Kelly’s Alien. A walk around the entire park is a must to see all of the sculptures big and small.
What I really enjoy about taking the children to the sculpture park, besides it being a great place to burn off some energy, is listening to the park’s interpretations of the sculptures as they generally seem to have a much better imagination than I do, and more often than not are closer to the mark when it comes to the artists interpretation. My kid’s favourite’s sculptures by far are the ‘Tarax play sculpture’, an abstract sculpture of white circular forms which reference the bubbles of Tarax soft drink. They love climbing over the ‘bubbles’ and hiding within the cut out ones. Another favourite is racing each other through the large stone Labyrinth to the middle and working their way back to the start.
When we last visited there were some temporary sculptures that were created by local McClelland high school students which included the very bright and cheery Weavy Wood project, an area that had been decorated with pieces of sticks covered in wool and hung in trees. There was also a tent made out of branches and a camp kitchen using recycled materials. As well as the temporary sculptures there are also permanent ones that the students have been involved in creating.
The school holiday programs are always of interest and over the summer school holidays my kids participated in the free N.G.V Kids on Tour workshop and had a fantastic time drawing vases based on ancient landscapes of the Hermannsburg Potters, creating purple propylene bottle brush and possum sculptures as well as turning sticks into brightly woven creations to add to the Weavy Wood project. The workshops for the upcoming school holidays are sure to be just as good, so why not take the children along to find their inner artist.
If you want to visit the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery you will find it located at 390 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin. It’s open from Tues to Sun 10am -5pm. FREE parking is available on-site and entry is by donation. Also on site is the McClelland Gallery Café which overlooks the lake and has a children’s menu, but I think a picnic within the grounds is always fun with young children.
Some upcoming events at McClelland include World Labyrinth Day, free school holiday activities and reasonably priced kids studio workshops. For more information on these please visit www.mcclellandgallery.com and click on the programs and events tab.