An RMIT project that transformed vacant land into vivid fields of sunflowers has expanded to 16 sites across the Latrobe Valley in Victoria's south-east.
Led by RMIT’s Office of Urban Transformations Research (OUTR) Lab, the first Get Sunflowered project saw more than 150 volunteers planting over 100,000 sunflower seeds across five sites in Moe, Traralgon and Morwell.
Now more than 500,000 sunflower seeds have been planted across nine new sites as a part of an overarching revitalisation project for the region.
Under the expansion, international artists are also working to help re-brand and reconnect the Latrobe Valley community through the activation of the vacant sites, to boost employment across the region.
Director of OUTR, Associate Professor Rosalea Monacella, is Co-Director and Leader of the overarching ReActivate Latrobe Valley project, alongside Co-Director Craig Douglas.
“Once people could see what the project was all about – the stunning flowers, community participation, the cleaning up of redundant sites in the urban fabric and the development of a new image for the region, other towns in the region contacted us to ask if they could be a part of the next Get Sunflowered event,” Monacella said.
RMIT Adjunct Professor Bart Brands is among the internationally recognised and award-winning architects from Australia, Netherlands and San Francisco who are contributing to the designs of the sites.
OUTR is collaborating with Master of Arts (Art in Public Space) alumnus Ben Morieson and the international landscape architects to create unique sunflower designs.
“Our work seeks to contribute to an understanding of how designers might engage more effectively with this condition of change, and that this may be through a collaborative approach with the community,” Monacella explains.
OUTR’s research in the region recognises the disconnection of the community mainly due to the privatisation of the power industry. Morwell in particular was chosen as a case study for the project due to its questionable future and its links to the coal and power industry.
“This project gives people an avenue to connect with one another and reminds people to celebrate the qualities of the place in which they live," Monacella said.
“It brings people together and demonstrates how each of us can be an active agent for change in our community.”
Latrobe City Councillor Sandy Kam has experienced the positive impact the project has had on her community since the project's conception in 2015.
“The sunflower is one of those plants that just brings a smile to people’s faces. The transformation of vacant or neglected sites shows that we care about the community and the image that is portrayed of the town – it shows hope,” Kam explains.
“The fact that people are travelling from outside the area to visit the various sunflower spaces creates a tourist attraction.”
Following last year’s success in growing sunflowers, one of the seed donators is supporting the generation of a pilot sunflower nursery for a flower market in the region.
“This is an exciting development as it is the beginning of what might become a new industry in the region that hopes to create employment and economic benefit for the Latrobe Region in the future, and do it in a most beautiful fashion,” Monacella said.
The flowers have begun blooming across the 16 sites in the Latrobe Valley.
Watch the video to learn more about the #GetSunflowered project.
Story: Jordan Di Stefano