THE QUEEN of the Shire is coming home, and her creator, highly acclaimed sculptor Deborah Halpern, is one of many that will be happy to see her back where
“I’m glad she is coming home,” said Deborah, “it’s exciting.”
Residents and visitors to the area have asked of her whereabouts and when she is returning.
“When a work is made for a special place and it is moved it is upsetting,” said Deborah.
Queen of the Shire, commissioned by Nillumbik Council and installed in 2015, usually stands 2.5 metres above the ground, on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Rd just north of the bridge, marking the entrance to Nillumbik Shire.
Per the agreement between Council and VicRoads, the sculpture was removed for protection.
“She was in the way”, said Deborah.
Queen of the Shire was found to have some damage so was taken away
“She’s gone … to have a little revamp,” said Deborah.
Council spokesperson Mitch Grayson said the artwork underwent a standard condition report while roadworks were underway.
“This condition report applies to all public artworks exposed to natural elements that can cause some wear”.
Council attributed the damage to “almost three years of exposure to natural elements”, saying that the repairs only amounted to “replacing about five missing tiles out of a sculpture that has a couple of thousand tiles”.
He said the costs were minimal — “and well within the standard maintenance budget for keeping public artworks in pristine condition”.
As a gateway piece, Queen of the Shire has the role of both welcoming residents and visitors into Nillumbik Shire, and also of watching over
“If only she could speak,” said Deborah, “if only she could say, look — slow down, you have to be careful here.
“We have the river, and we love our river, we love our little village … so be careful.”
When the sculpture first went up, many people would tell Deborah how much they loved her, and that “she was magical”.
“Her eyes look at you,” they would say, and Deborah’s response was “yes, she is looking, she is looking at everything and she’s looking
Growing up in Warrandyte, Deborah has lived here for over 60 years and has noticed that many things have changed.
Perhaps the return of The Queen of the Shire is a good opportunity to remind us all that there is a law to the land and we must be careful, we need to treat the area with respect.
“There are a lot of people here who are new to Warrandyte,” said Deborah, “and you have to get into the vibe and understand it.
“You need to have a sensitivity to the place you are in and take time to find out about it.”
Although not aware of her official return date, having her ready to come back is a relief.
With the bridge now open as usual, people have been wondering when and even if the Queen would return but with a new footing poured and the giant truck warning sign relocated, the Diary has been able to confirm with both VicRoads and Nillumbik Shire Council that Warrandyte and Nillumbik Shire’s prized sculpture will return within a few weeks.
“I enjoy spending time with her because I get to revisit the process … but she has a job to do … and she is coming back to look over that intersection … to look over the area.”
“We have restored her and she looks beautiful again, we have cleaned her up… and now she is coming home.”
Mitch Grayson agrees, telling the Diary that the Shire Council is very much looking forward to her being re-installed.
“What a great day that will be for all the people who have missed her so much!” he said.
Deborah is part of the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios, and her studio will be one of many open on the weekend of May 4-5 (see page 9 for more details).