The three year pilot of Sculpture Encounters - Granite Island ended in December 2020 and the Department of Environment and Water (managers of Granite Island) has not extended the program.
The last of the 23 sculptures was removed from the island on Friday, April 30. The sculptures polarised the community, but there was little doubt the project raised the profile of the island and the Fleurieu, which boosted tourism into the "thousands".
The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) will be working with community and stakeholders to co-create a new master plan for Granite Island so that residents and visitors can experience the best of the island's nature-based tourism offerings.
Founding director of Sculptures by the Sea David Handley thanked everyone who made the exhibition possible over the last three and a half years, as well as everyone who enjoyed the sculpture collection by local artists and artists from eight countries around the world and most Australian States.
"It has been a wonderful experience creating the sculpture collection for many, many thousands of people to enjoy," Mr Handley said.
"To all the locals who invited us to start the project, through to support from the members of the Encounter Bay Rotary Club, to artists and art teachers, the people who billeted artists and our staff in their homes, to local businesses who supplied products and services, we have enjoyed meeting you and your enjoyment of the collection."
"Thank you to Department of Environment and Water, the Parks Rangers and representatives of the Ngarrindjeri people, notably Uncle Darrel Sumner, for your support in so many ways including working closely with us to care for the island during the installation and de-installation of the sculptures."
Mr Handley said highlights of working on Sculpture Encounters - Granite Island included the total strangers who would offer feedback on how much they enjoyed the collection and had not visited the island for years, but now visited every day, or every week or couple of months.
"This included interstate or international visitors who told us someone they met on their travels around Australia told them they had to visit Victor Harbor to see the sculptures. This word of mouth marketing by visitors to Granite Island brought tourists to Victor Harbor from near and far," he said.
Local artists Margaret Worth and Hamish McMillan had their works displayed on the island and took Victor Harbor to the international stage speaking of their artworks at the Sydney Sculpture Conference held at the Art Gallery of NSW last year.
As a result of Chinese artist Yi Cui staying with Margaret Worth to install her sculpture on Granite Island in 2019 they have both recently worked together on an exhibition in China this year.
"In addition to the Granite Island project facilitating the national and international careers of some of the best sculptors on the Fleurieu Peninsula, international and interstate artists have come to Victor Harbor from Denmark to the USA and Slovakia to Japan, returning home to sing its praises," Mr Handley said.
"We have enjoyed promoting Granite Island and Victor Harbor internationally and around Australia with a combined audience of some 600,000 people. While the sculptures are gone this won't be my last visit, Victor Harbor, Granite Island and the Fleurieu Peninsula are a special part of the world."
The City of Victor Harbor had been supporters of the project with current Mayor Moira Jenkins on the inaugural community committee promoting the sculptures to come to the island in 2017.
But at a council meeting late in 2020, council refused to support a request from Sculpture Encounters - Granite Island to write a letter of support to DEW for the continuation of the project.
Instead there was support for Mayor Moira Jenkins to write to the Minister for Environment and Water to advise of council's position regarding the Sculpture Encounters - Granite Island project and to also call the government to develop a master plan for Granite Island in consultation with the City of Victor Harbor and the community.
"While there is nodoubt that Granite Island provides an incredible backdrop to showcase public art, it is important to acknowledge there have been mixed views from our community about the sculptures. This has been consistent since the Sculpture Encounters pilot was launched at the end of 2017," Dr Jenkins said.
"The council has generally been supportive of initiatives that activate and enhance Granite Island, given its environmental, economic and cultural importance to our city. However, given the community's diverse views the council opted not to write a letter of support for the sculptures pilot, but instead call on the custodians of Granite Island, the Department of Environment and Water, to develop a master plan that will enhance this natural asset.
"There needs to be a clear vision for the future of Granite Island that is shared by all stakeholders including our community. The council is eager to work collaboratively with State Government on a long term, sustainable and innovative plan that recognises both the environmental and economic importance of Granite Island not just to Victor Harbor but the state."