An exciting new installation on the Lachlan Valley sculpture trail is now in place.
Varanus, the goanna, stands 5.5 metres tall and 20 metres from tip to tail - and he holds his head high in his new home near Gum Swamp.
The steel sculpture is the result of 3500 hours of work by Glen Star, and years of vision and planning by a team of locals.
Dignitaries from the Forbes Arts Society, Evolution Mining, Forbes Shire Council and the Grazing Down the Lachlan team gathered to celebrate on Wednesday afternoon.
Varanus is made of about 650 metres of 50mm and 1390 metres of 20mm steel pipe, weighing in at about 3.5 tonne.
It's by far the biggest work the sculptor has completed so far, and Star was thrilled to see him in his permanent home amongst the eucalypts this week.
The lace monitor is a familiar sight in the region, and holds significance for the Indigenous Wiradjuri people as a totemic animal and food source.
Mayor Phyllis Miller said it was amazing to see the sculpture take his place in an arts trail that will extend to Condobolin.
"One of the most incredible aspects of this project is that it's volunteer driven," Mayor Miller said.
She paid tribute to the Forbes Arts Society, its sculpture committee and project committee members, as well as the Grazing Down the Lachlan team.
Varanus is one of three sculptures funded by a shared values project between Evolution Mining and Forbes Arts Society.
With $5.7 million from the NSW Government in funding announced last November, the project will also see the former Forbes ambulance station in Lachlan Street transformed into a cultural arts centre and cafe.
New bird hides, walking tracks and boardwalks will be installed at Gum Swamp.
"This project will bring a massive tourism boost not only to our beautiful town but to the Lachlan Valley," Mayor Miller said.
Forbes Arts Society's Dr Keith Mullette said more sculptures, varied in style, will be installed on the trail within months.
Varanus is the latest of 20 sculptures to be installed along a 100km-long Lachlan Valley sculpture trail, which its founders hope will become as iconic as Sculptures By the Sea.
Two more sculptures are prepared for installation between Forbes and Condobolin, when the current coronavirus restrictions can be lifted.
"They are not all going to look like this, but they will all be spectacular," Dr Keith Mullette said.
At Wednesday's celebration, Forbes Arts Society president Dr Karen Ritchie acknowledged the support of the NSW Government, Forbes Shire Council, Lachlan Council, and Evolution Mining.
She particularly acknowledged Keith Mullette and Kim Muffet for the "countless hours of time and expertise" they have put into the project.
"Our sculpture project, Gum Swamp bird hide project and culture centre project will all see Forbes develop not only economically as a tourism destination but will also see our communities benefit from a development of arts, culture, education and the social capital that these projects will begin," Dr Ritchie said.
Dr Keith Mullette said the vision had developed over several years from conversations with Wayne Richards from the Forbes Services Memorial Club and Rosie Johnston.
Foodie event Grazing Down the Lachlan is now part of the event, raising funds as well as bringing visitors to enjoy our regional produce and environment.
Dr Mullette thanked all those who had been part of and supported the project.
"This is the first of three sculptures that have come about through a shared values project (with Evolution Mining) that we have worked together on for the past three years," Dr Mullette said.
"This is something that is going to grow and will revolutionise the town.
"Our vision is that the trail will become an inland Sculptures By the Sea, but permanent sculptures and much larger.
"We are passionate about including all of the Lachlan Valley in this project and bringing people to our area as a destination and not just passing through.
"We are working toward partnership with Sculptures by the Sea to enable us to promote artists and events to a wider audience.
"Encouraging coastal tourists to head inland and see incredible art in a very different but equally spectacular environment."
Sculptures at the Wiradjuri Dreaming Centre on Lake Forbes were unveiled late last year.
The feature sculpture, Family Matters, depicts two women and a child returning from gathering food, and a series of story poles, each depicting a part of the Wiradjuri culture and their totem animals, have been installed along the lake walk.