‘Embracing Distance’, a semi-finalist for the 2014 International Award for Public Art (IAPA) is situated at the base of the North Melbourne Housing Towers.
This international award was established to increase visibility for public art internationally and is administered by the Institute for Public Art (based in Hong Kong) in collaboration with Forecast Public Art (USA) and Shanghai University (China).
The Institute for Public Art and Forecast Public Art reached out to artists, public art administrators, organisations, scholars, curators and aficionados around the world and received hundreds of suggestions for projects to be considered for the next award.
'Embracing Distance', is a distinctive project and forward thinking. Driven by Staff at North Melbourne Language and Learning who were risk taking, and committed to participation and engagement, Rosa was was eager to support this vision as the role and meaning of art-making to newly settled enable many individuals to first experience self-expression.
In August 2012, North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) saw the completion of an extraordinary collaboration between Melbourne artist Rosa Tato and North Melbourne residents.
The “Embracing Distance” art project began with workshops where participants from over 16 different countries reflected on their thoughts and feelings on leaving their homeland and settling in Australia. Participants also brought in their precious items, patterned fabrics, clothing and jewelry that reflected their family and cultural heritage.
Rosa worked these personal stories, patterns and motifs into the design for a 35 metre long decorative sculptural installation. The work represents the unique history and cultural identity of the local residents, capturing and reflecting the feelings associated with settling into a new country.
Each main panel in the sculptural installation represents a different story and, like the experience of resettlement and migration, over time the look and feel of the panels look will change while the essence of what they are will stay the same.
The newly installed cast iron panels now form a welcoming entrance to North Melbourne Language and Learning as well as a prominent and beautiful feature on the Public Housing Estate.
In 2011, City of Melbourne funded this ambitious community engaged public sculpture project. This permanent work is experienced as a 30m long decorative installation on site at the North Melbourne Public Housing Estate. It was recently nominated for the 2014 International Public Art Award (IAPA) and achieved recognition as a Semi-Finalist.
In 2015, the Women's Art Register (WAR), as part of their 40 year celebrations of existence celebrating Women's Art, commissioned Rosa to revisit an artwork she created at the base of the North Melbourne Housing Tower, in 2012. The art work 'Embracing Distance' enabled the recent arrivals to reflect on their homeland, migration and settlement through a shared process of storytelling and group discussion.
The Women's Art Register began as a slide library in Melbourne in 1975 to document and support Australian women artists. It has been run for 40 years primarily by practising artists who volunteer their time and now consists of over 14,000 images and represents over 5000 artists.
To celebrate 40 years of promoting women’s art, the AS IF: 40 years and beyond, was a curated mini festival consisting of eight (8) events. In October 2015 it showcased a dazzling array of women’s artistic contributions to the cultural landscape. The Women’s Art Register invited artistic women who were refugees, asylum seekers or migrants and newly-settled in Melbourne to join the celebration of women’s art in Victoria in an event called AS IF: Artmaking in Tandem:
It was a true collaboration between artistic women newly settled in Melbourne and was supported by The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health.
'Rosa Tato has extensive experience working with newly settled communities. Working on-site with the residents of the North Melbourne Public Housing Estate, Embracing Distance was created as a 30m long community public sculpture.
Rosa is interested in the art practices of newly settled women, the role and meaning of artmaking in their lives and how these practices are influenced and challenged by settlement in a new country. The Women’s Art Register believe it is vital to include the artistic concerns of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, in order to better understand women’s relationship to artmaking and reflect the composition of artistic women in Australian society.
AS IF: Artmaking in tandem - Revisiting Embracing Distance
A collaboration between women newly settled in Melbourne and artist Rosa Tato.
In 2012, Rosa created Embracing Distance at the base of the North Melbourne Housing Tower. Replacing a cyclone fence, this 35 metre installation is imbued with stories - motifs and memories -about settlement, home and placemaking. This collaborative art project is re-contextualised and exhibited in 2015 to explore the impact of public art within community.
She has just completed installing works for Immerse 2019, an exhibition that breaks away from the traditional confines of an art gallery. Two sites; and through both art and storytelling Rosa created work at Coonara House in Ferntree Gully and within a space at Knox City Council foyer.
Are Magpies the Mozarts of the bush?
Spending twelve months as Artist in Residence (AIR) at Park Victoria’s Coolart Homestead and Wetlands, afforded Rosa a ‘bird’s eye view’. Twitchers (bird enthusiasts) would often stopped by her studio to provide updates on bird counts, and birds that had moved onto the endangered or critically endangered lists.
Rosa is impacted by the controversial limited recycling options affecting our birdlife and passionate about the environment. Living by the water, on the Mornington Peninsula close to several RAMSAR listed sites, she would like to encourage the viewer to contemplate the importance of saving the Earth for the birds and in turn saving the all the other lifeforms including ourselves.
This motivated her to create these multilayered works often sewing repetitively over and over her collages in recognition of their plight.