Light up the Night to illuminate Tamworth as part of City of Light project celebrating streetlight anniversary

A SERIES of art projections will light up the city tonight as Tamworth celebrates 129 years since it became the first city in the southern hemisphere to light its streets using electricity.

A series of artworks with a City of Light theme will be featured in the special one-night-only event on the anniversary, which culminates with the art projection showcase from 7pm to 9.30pm at Tamworth Powerstation Museum.

The project is being backed by illuminart, a company specialising in telling stories through light and projection, whose team was putting the final touches on the show on Wednesday.

 POWERFUL: The Tamworth Regional Art Collective with one of its latest pieces in the CBD. From left: Jodie Herden, Karen Balsar, Joanne Stead, Jody Blackwell and Leah Dryden. Photo: Gareth Gardner 231017GGC003

POWERFUL: The Tamworth Regional Art Collective with one of its latest pieces in the CBD. From left: Jodie Herden, Karen Balsar, Joanne Stead, Jody Blackwell and Leah Dryden. Photo: Gareth Gardner 231017GGC003

Illuminart artistic director Cindi Drennan said the company visited the city about six months to do projection tests with local artists and show how it could be used around the city. 

“Plans were already in place to do something for the 129th anniversary so it was suggested we come back, help some local artists develop some new skills using projection and digital media,” she said.

The visit resulted in the Light up the Night event on tomorrow evening. 

Families are encouraged to enjoy the dazzling display and take their own chairs and blankets to claim a vantage point on the lawn of the Tamworth Community Centre Parade Ground next door to the museum.

“Tomorrow night is a pop-up event so multiple things going on,” Ms Drennan said.

“It’s generally a community gathering to enjoy the heritage of the museum.

“The illumination and the artists’ animated works are part of a whole palette of a lovely experience in what is basically like people’s backyards.

“To be able to see local artists’ works up larger than what they would expect and watch them come to life with animation, and some things you may not expect.

“At the moment, the jacaranda trees are beautiful, purple and in flower, what’s going to happen when we start projecting interesting other colours onto those jacarandas?

“It’s a mystery. Let’s discover tomorrow night.”

Part of the project has also been a powerful wave of public art sweeping the city. 

READ MORE: Tamworth Regional Art Collective unveil new murals ahead of City of Light celebrations

A number of electrical substations and NBN boxes in the CBD have become the latest canvasses for the Tamworth Regional Art Collective.

The collective has been commissioned to create an artistic homage to the city’s mantle as the birthplace of electric street lighting in Australia ahead of City of Light celebrations on November 9.

READ MORE: Powerstation Museum celebrates Tamworth's City of Light history

PASSIONATE SUPPORT: Powerstation Museum volunteer Brian Newall in 2016. Photo: Peter Hardin

PASSIONATE SUPPORT: Powerstation Museum volunteer Brian Newall in 2016. Photo: Peter Hardin

Ms Drennan has been involved with light and projection festivals around the country, like Sydney’s Vivid, but working in a place like Tamworth offered a special experience to locals.

“When you go to those events, like Vivid, you’re with strangers and tourists,” MsDrennan said.

“But when you’re working in your own town, you get to see a building you’re familiar with illuminated.

“When it’s your own building, your own backyard illuminated it’s very, very special.

“There’s a natural affinity for us with this project because illuminart is all about telling stories in light and helping regional communities do something special with innovative technology.

“We’re here celebrating the 129th anniversary of Tamworth being the first city to have electrified street lights.

“Tamworth has had this forward-thinking attitude about light and its own civic spaces for a long time, so we’re quite proud to be part of that.”

Tamworth Powerstation Museum Director Bridget Guthrie said the special night event is an exciting addition to anniversary celebrations.

“Award-winning company illuminart has been engaged to work with local artists and designers to create the Light Up The Night projection,” she said.

“The Tamworth Art Collective – Karen Balsar, Jody Blackwell, Leah Dryden, Jodie Herden, Joanne Stead and Emma Stilts – and Danny Stanley have created new City of Light works as permanent public art on three Essential Energy substations and six National Broadband Network boxes in Tamworth.

“Those same works will be featured in the Light Up the Night visual showcase, projected on the wall of the museum’s large shed next Thursday night.”

In keeping with tradition, there is free admission to the Powerstation Museum on November 9.

The museum’s dedicated volunteers will lead a series of local school groups on tours on the day and teach them about Tamworth’s role as an Australian electricity pioneering community while showing them through the nationally significant collection of more than 6500 items. 

The museum’s two John Fowler steam-driven engines - the only two cross-compound under-type engines operating in the world - will be running from 10am and into the night.

Tamworth Regional Council secured a $32,400 grant through Arts NSW towards the cost of the two-year project to design, develop and implement public art based on the City of Light theme. 

The plan includes both ephemeral (short-lived) and permanent public art.

Ms Guthrie said the project aims to build awareness of Tamworth’s role as a national pioneer of electricity.

“Using public art to tell this social history engages the community and provide a focus for local narratives,” she said.

“The resulting artworks help to tell this significant story and hopefully generate a sense of pride.”