Penny Sadubin’s interactive public art project, UNITY Kiama, is a very special memory of the KISS Arts Festival for many.
Conceived by American artist Nancy Tessler Belmont and launched in June 2016, UNITY has become a global movement, being recreated all over the US, in Canada, Scotland and at two other locations in Australia.
The project is based around community-specific labels (called signifiers) and explores how those labels create interconnectedness. It celebrates a community’s uniqueness and strengthens ties.
“UNITY Kiama attracted people from all age groups, locals and visitors, and engaged them in thinking about and expressing something personal in a public space,” explains Penny.
“Some of the statements were universal – ‘I am a parent’ etc. But others asked us to reflect at a deeper level; ‘I am a survivor’, ‘I /someone I love has experienced addiction’.
“By choosing these statements, people were revealing that we all have different journeys in life, yet there is much in common.”
The resulting artwork shows the web of our community that connects and supports us.
“As times and attitudes change, I was heartened to realise that two of the more popular statements were ‘I support marriage equality’ and ‘I welcome refugees to settle in the Kiama area’.”
Penny, who was there for the whole two days, says she had wonderful conversations and would like to thank everyone who participated for their willingness to be open and honest, together creating something of fleeting beauty.
She notes it was harder to get men to participate, perhaps because of the medium of the yarn and wool itself.
Penny is delighted that after the project was left up on the Monday for a final viewing opportunity, educators from Kiama Pre-School took away the woven yarn to decorate their centre.
“I chose to use donated yarns, rather than the specified raspberry colour of the original, to reflect on our community’s recent shift towards sustainability and improved recycling,” she says.