Forget Ariel and her band of chirpy sea animals – Townsville could soon create its own magical, marine world if plans for the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) go ahead.
World-renowned artist, Jason DeCaires Taylor, will be responsible for creating the sculptures and hopes to create underwater museums at four locations: The Strand, Magnetic Island, Palm Island and John Brewer Reef.
Jason has had his installations feature on National Geographic’s Top 25 Wonders of the World list and sculpted breathtaking works of art in almost every tropical paradise imaginable – from Grenada in Mexico to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands and beyond.
Now Townsville has a chance to make that list and jettison itself onto the world’s tourism stage, which would undoubtedly mean jobs, economic growth and the chance for people to say, ‘Oh! I know where that is!’ when you mention our home city.
“[Making this] is about creating an underwater world where people can introduce themselves to the natural reef,” says Jason. “It’s also about changing our value system, so thinking about the sea floor as something sacred and something really special that we should be protecting and not just taking for granted.”
The best thing is, you won’t need to get a drop of water on you in order to see and appreciate some of these art pieces.
“We’re hoping to have some emergent pieces that at low tide will be visible to everybody walking along the beach or The Strand and at high tide you can go swimming amongst it. So you can be a scuba diver, snorkeler or pedestrian walking along The Strand and you’ll be able to engage with the artwork and all the messages that it brings about the Great Barrier Reef.” Director of Reef Ecologic, Dr Paul Marshall, says.
One of the key drivers for this project is SeaLink’s General Manager, Paul Victory, who says it could change the way people think about Townsville as a destination and create much-needed jobs.
“The tourism economy is recognised as one of the five great industries of the future. It will create jobs for our young citizens of the world and it would create jobs for North Queensland.” he says.
If you’re a bit of a pessimist, thinking: ‘It will create jobs for the tourism sector – what about me?’ then it’s time to take a step back, look at the big picture and see just how well it’s performed in other countries.
“Where these underwater museums have been created in other parts of the world, they have bought large numbers of tourists. Some sites see 30,000 [people] and others see 300,000,” Dr Adam Smith from Reef Ecologic says. Adam goes on to note, “if you want anything to be really successful, it takes more than just a handful of people. We’re really good at supporting our local footy team, so I would hope that something as big and important as the Great Barrier Reef would have a large number of business people, artists, scientists and politicians who want to have a say and contribute to make this something we’re really proud of now and in the future.”
If there’s one aspect that Adam really nails, it’s the fact that it’s time for Townsville to leave the rough couple of years behind us and choose to say, “I’m doing something to make it better” instead of focusing on the negative aspects.
After all, if there’s anything that should be seen as tough about Townsville, it’s our resilience – not our economy.
To show your support and have a look at some of Jason’s other incredible works, visit the Museum of Underwater Art website.
The Museum of Underwater Art isn’t the only thing pushing our city forward. Check out this article on how the Townsville to Singapore relationship could have a huge impact on our region.