PIECE OF HISTORY: "Lady of the Mary”, unveiled in Mary St yesterday. It arrived with a plaque outlining the region's history. Jacob Carson

Art comes to Mary St with unveiling of $30,000 statue

THE scene depicted is one of serenity - Mary Lennox stands with her back to the flow of traffic down the street.

Her head is downcast, focused entirely on the task at hand as she lifts her dress slightly to dip a toe into the cool water of the river also named after her.

Lady of the Mary is the first piece of public artwork to be placed in the street that shares her name, and a crowd of historians, art lovers and curious onlookers gathered to see the unveiling of the statue yesterday.

"It's apt on a day like Valentine's Day that we commemorate Lady Mary,” Cr Daryl Dodt said during the ceremony.

"Her life is a story about romance, as much as it is about tragedy.”

The result of a long planning and collaboration process, the statue was warmly received by the audience, many of whom hoped the installation would lead to more public art installed around town.

The work of husband and wife team Gillie and Marc Schattner, the bronze sculpture is a delicate tribute to a life cut short.

It followed an extensive competition to pick a winning design, with artists from around the country presenting their work for public consultation and debate.

Now a permanent fixture in the heart of Gympie's town centre, some are calling it a welcome (if overdue) addition to town.

"It's lovely, but it would've been nice to see this a few decades ago. I think it's an important thing for historical women to be represented,” said Elke Bigg.

"I think it's fantastic, and I'm hoping it'll lead to more public art around Gympie,” added Abbie Grant-Taylor.

Seeing the statue finally completed and installed is a point of pride for those involved in the project, which included Gympie council's place manager Viane Ali.

"I know there have been some grumbles about the cost, but the end goal is as much economic as it is about something nice to look at,” he said.

"We're hoping it draws people into the street; they'll see the amazing food and shops on offer and they'll give a bit back to local businesses.”

The unveiling of the sculpture coincided with the launch of the Gympie Town Centre heritage trail which will give locals and tourists the opportunity to learn more about the region and its rich history.

"I think it's a marvellous thing,” said John Beckmann.

"It's a wonderful addition to the town. We have a rich history and it's so good to see this permanent monument to it.

"Hopefully people learn a little more about where they live.”

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