The history of Greythorn retold through the lives of six statues who represent the people and businesses who are the faces and history of this iconic precinct located in the outer most corner of North Balwyn.

Background

Greythorn has a series of chainsaw carved statues created by the late Angela Polglaze in 2000 – they are known at the Greythorn Icons (see images below). They are located in front of the fire station. There is no signage or plaque there to give any history of what this artwork represents, who the artist is and how they came to be at Greythorn.

Boroondara City Council spent nearly $1 million in 2019 to upgrade the gardening and footpaths at Greythorn Central and created various gathering places around the shopping strip which were furnished with seating.

Greythorn Central has five signage poles installed with directional paddles attached indicating the direction of the shops which are very old and falling apart. These were kept in the newly refurbished garden beds and look very shabby and dilapidated against the backdrop of the new gardening and footpath landscape works.

Greythorn Marketing Coordinator Yolanda Torrisi proposed a project to recreate the history of Greythorn through a series of wooden sculptures to complement the Greythorn Icons who represent a shopping lady, a baker, a fireman, a dog and a lolly pop lady.

a collage of 4 images of carved timber statues located in Greythorn area of North Balwyn

The Greythorn Traders Association made application for a community grant of $10,000 and would co fund the project to engage professional consultants with specific expertise needed to research the history of Greythorn. The statues would be an added feature to the directional signage poles location. The statues would be created in such a way to be the story of the people who journeyed through Greythorn’s history.

Furthermore at every statue there would be a little story about the statue and what its history was. There would also be information to provide the viewer something to think about.

The aim of the project is that the sculptures are typical of a North Balwyn person or business connecting with the signage pole and it becomes an interesting piece of artwork that flows through the shopping strip to create interest for all the shoppers and visitors to Greythorn Central. The signage poles provide shoppers and visitors information about the shops on the shopping strip – a juxtaposition of today’s shopping directory with statues representing the people of the past who built and were a part of Greythorn.

Strong leadership to overcome the numerous challenges and stakeholder engagement required

Head shot of Yolanda Torrisi - Project lead and manager

Project lead and manager – Yolanda Torrisi

Yolanda Torrisi has been the Marketing Coordinator for Greythorn Central for seven years. She was the project lead and vision for the Faces of Greythorn. She is known as an entrepreneurial businesswoman having started, developed, and successfully delivered a number of business operations and creative endeavours.

Yolanda has always had a strong sense of community spirit and wanted to provide a historical journey of the development of Greythorn which is neither a precinct, nor a suburb and does not have its own postcode but is distinctly iconic, in its 1sqkm area it covers within North Balwyn.

The Greythorn Traders Association loved the idea and the seeds were planted to get the project under way.

Timing, funding, specialist expertise, stakeholder engagement and permits

It was a three year journey (two years of COVID delays) to finally deliver the project.

The Greythorn Traders Association funded 90% of this project with 10% provided by a City of Boroondara Community Strengthening grant.

The selection of a curator and researcher for this project was imperative to ensure accuracy of information and development of the historical facts to create the journey.

Image of curator and researcher Anne Carew standing with arms crossed

We were very keen to find someone who was local to the North Balwyn area.

One of our business owners, knew of a researcher who was a customer.

We met with Anne Carew who and quickly learned she had the qualifications and skills we needed to research the history of Greythorn. Being local to the area she was passionate to unearth and piece together the history.

From here we were able to begin to decide who our Faces of Greythorn statues would be and who they would represent.

We then had to think about a sculptor. We needed to find someone who was sympathetic to the sculptures by the late Angela Polglaze. We were introduced to Shlomit Moria of Bushwood Creations, also a chainsaw sculptor and who was very keen to become involved in our project. Discussing the project with her, it became evident she would be perfect as our sculptor.

With any project to be developed on state and council-controlled lands, a suite of permits are required. Furthermore, stakeholder engagement was needed of all businesses at Greythorn.

Yolanda Torrisi prepared submissions for council and Vic Roads to approve the location, height and size of the statues.

VicRoads timeliness, responses and review of our documentation was outstandingly quick. Council permitting and review of our project was very protracted.

dramatic image of artist and sculptor Shlomit Moria holding a chainsaw with lots of wood chips floating in the air

Capturing the history and creating meaning

Still to come is The Faces of Greythorn book which will be published next year. You can read some of the development and history of Greythorn, which will be featured in the book, on the Greythorn Central website.
Each of the plaques at the base of each statue also provides a snapshot of the history of Greythorn.

Each of these statues is designed to transport the visitor through time. If the visitor grew up in this area, and is a part of the history of Greythorn it will rekindle fond memories. For those who take the journey to visit Greythorn, they become part of the Greythorn story as they immerse learning the history.

These six larger-than-life size statues dotted along the Greythorn Central shopping strip chronicle the history and development of Greythorn.

The Faces of Greythorn statues are:

  • Ferdinand Finger, a well-known orchardist of the early 1900s;
  • Donald Wood, a notable pharmacist at Greythorn;
  • Albert and Maddie, a father and daughter, representing the traditional people of the lands we work, play and live on;
  • Maria, an older lady who represents much of the post World War 2 migration and families making Greythorn home;
  • Lily, one of the young, hip and fashionable youth of Greythorn;
  • Evie, representing one of the many businesswomen who set up fashionable shops at Greythorn in the 1950s but was also Evie Kay who had a famous toy shop at Greythorn.

They now join the Greythorn Icons – The fireman, baker, lollipop lady, shopper and dog which have stood in front of the fire station at Greythorn since September 2000.

Greythorn’s history is as rich as it is diverse. From the 1900s when the area was a highly productive citrus orchard, to being home to a violet farm, a koala sanctuary and where in the 1950s the highly fashionable women of Greythorn made a name for themselves with their high fashion, couture and coiffures, Greythorn has grown into a thriving shopping and community hub. It has attracted families from all of the world wanting to live in this prized location in Melbourne’s inner eastern leafy suburbs.

Transportation, civil works and installation

The six statues had to be transported from Warrigul to Greythorn. We had to engage a road and civil contractor who had the expertise, knowledge and accreditation with VicRoads to undertake the installation work for us.

We sought tenders from three contractors and only obtained one quote – Roadside Services and Solutions. We proceeded to engage them. They dealt with all the council and VicRoads permitting requirements for the civil works, road closures and installation. Their execution of the work was outstanding and they provided the necessary expertise for the final journey of these statues to their standing place.

Faces of Greythorn statues launch

A mini Autumn Festival was organised for Saturday May 21 (Federal Election Day) to launch the Faces of Greythorn statues.

A formal launch was held at the Albert and Maddie statue, representing our First Nations People and post the launch, face painters, balloon clowns, musicians entertained the crowds who took a walk of the shopping strip to visit each of the statues.

The statues have attracted significant interest and media attention. David Astle of ABC Radio Evenings ran a segment about them. Listen here to the David Astle interview with Yolanda Torrisi: https://www.greythorncentral.com.au/

Also at Eastsider News May edition.

For more information contact:

Yolanda Torrisi
Marketing Coordinator
Greythorn Central Shopping Centre

Contact Details for Yolanda Torrisi Marketing Coordinator for Greythorn Central Shopping Centre Mobile 0412 261 870 eMail yolanda@yolandatorrisi.com

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