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First Nations artists unveiled for new Footscray Hospital tapestry

*Featured photo: ‘The New Footscray Hospital Tapestry’ designed by Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung) and Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji). Courtesy of the artists.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA Plenary Health has announced the artists tasked with creating the design for a tapestry that will hang suspended in the main entry and welcome all visitors to the new hospital.

Renowned artists Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung) and Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji) will collaborate on the design, incorporating microscopic images of river reeds from the Maribyrnong River and skeletal drawings of local native flora and fauna.

Working closely with master weavers from the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Clarke and Mahoney’s artwork will be transformed into a three-dimensional tapestry spanning 4.2 x 10 metres, making it one of the largest tapestries ever produced for a public hospital in Victoria.

Plenary Health New Footscray Hospital Project Chair, Kelvyn Lavelle, said “Mitch and Maree will design a tapestry that will greet the public and staff with a striking visual connection to the local landscape, community and history of the west.”

“The integration of art into the hospital’s design serves not only to complement the architectural aspects but also to foster calmness and cultural safety in a hospital environment that can often be stressful for patients and family.”The tapestry is a collaboration between Plenary Health, the official arts partner for the new hospital Footscray Community Arts, the Australian Tapestry Workshop, and the Tapestry Foundation of Australia, in collaboration with the Victorian Health Building Authority and Western Health.

Footscray Community Arts Artistic Director, Daniel Santangeli said, “Art at the new Footscray Hospital will reflect Footscray’s rich history and strong sense of community.

“As Footscray Community Arts celebrates 50 years of creativity in Melbourne’s west in 2024, we’re proud to be working on this significant tapestry with two renowned artists who have a strong history of practicing in the area.”

Public art is a core part of the new Footscray Hospital’s overall design approach to help deliver an improvement in health and wellness and include various standalone works and immersive art forms in external and internal spaces of the hospital.

Director/CEO of the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Sophie Travers said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for the weavers of the tapestry workshop to collaborate with leading artists and communities in Melbourne’s west.

“The tapestries we have woven for hospitals are amongst our most loved, because of the colour, warmth, and connection they bring to people of all backgrounds. We are confident this will be a joyful and much-loved addition to a beautiful new building.”

There will be several public art commissions across the new hospital including ‘Journey to Footscray’, where one artist’s work will feature on recessed wall panels showcasing local stories of migration, nature sound art in outdoor spaces, digital art, community-led art pieces and First Nations landscaping.

The new Footscray Hospital tapestry is generously supported through the Tapestry Foundation of Australia and State Government of Victoria as part of The Premier’s Suite partnership to fund tapestries in new Victorian hospitals.Construction is well underway on the $1.5 billion new Footscray Hospital that is set to open in 2025.

Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji) and Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung). Courtesy of Plenary Health and Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Tapestry background info

The new Footscray Hospital tapestry is the second major tapestry that forms The Premiers Suite, a partnership between the Tapestry Foundation of Australia and the State Government of Victoria to fund the production of major tapestries in new hospitals in the State. The first of The Premier Suite collaboration is The Declaration of the Rights of the Child designed by Emily Floyd and woven by the Australian Tapestry Workshop on display in the Foyer of the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

The tapestry will take a team of 10 weavers around 12 months to create. The weaving team will draw from the ATW’s extensive palette of over 360 coloured yarns sourced from Victorian farms and dyed on site in South Melbourne.

About the artists

Maree Clarke and Mitch Mahoney 

Maree Clarke is a Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman who is a pivotal figure in the reclamation of southeast Australian Aboriginal art practices, reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that were lost – or lying dormant – over the period of colonisation, as well as a leader in nurturing and promoting the diversity of contemporary southeast Aboriginal artists.

Mitch Mahoney is a proud Boon Wurrung artist and cultural educator who consults at Bunjilaka Melbourne Museum, Science Gallery and Footscray Community Arts. Mitch regularly collaborates with his Aunt, Maree Clarke.

Together the two have produced significant commissions for the NGV and the Metro Tunnel Project. Mitch is focused on Indigenous Bio-Design in his practice with projects including The Biodegradable Eel Trap and Seven Canoe’s project.Australian Tapestry Workshop project leaders

Chris Cochius
Chris Cochius
is a master weaver at the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) and has honed her skill over a more than thirty-year career. Cochius studied Environmental Design, followed by Interior Design in Adelaide. In 1982 she worked on a community tapestry with artist Kay Lawrence before commencing work at the ATW in 1983.

From 1986-87 she was employed by the West Dean Tapestry Studio in the UK to weave a tapestry designed by British artist Henry Moore. Since then, Cochius has led many projects at the ATW including Catching Breath (2014) designed by Brook Andrew, currently on display in the Singapore High Commission; Avenue of Remembrance (2015) designed by Imants Tillers; Treasure Hunt (2017) designed by Guan Wei and Hear the Plant Song (2020) designed by Janet Laurence.

Amy Cornall
Amy Cornall is a highly experienced Senior Weaver at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Amy first started at the ATW in 2004, while completing an Honours Degree of Bachelor of Fine Art (Tapestry) through Monash University.

Amy has worked on a number of major tapestries, including Old Media 2023, designed by Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings, Parramatta, 2021 designed by Chris Kenyon, Plant Song, 2020, designed by Janet Laurence, Bridle Track, Hill End, 2019, designed by Luke Sciberras for Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Alice Bayke, 2008, designed by Yvonne Todd for Queensland Art Gallery and Abstract Structure, 2007, designed by Roger Kemp for the National Gallery of Victoria.