I'm going out on a limb in support of the Crown Street Mall palm tree

This is not a popular view, but I’m just going to go out on a limb and say it: I actually like the new palm tree up a pole in Crown Street Mall.

The day it was installed, as part of a larger $450,000 public art project spanning the mall, I joined the throngs squinting with disbelief at the Cabbage Tree palm attached to a metal pole.

We’d been told months before that acclaimed artist Mike Hewson would be installing some conversation-starting sculptures made of sandstone and the native Illawarra palms. 

But the palm-up-a-pole was a secret, only unveiled to the public once it had been strung up, resplendent in the air.

The reaction online was swift and brutal.

But heading out into the mall to chat to real life punters, I found an equal number of supporters and detractors. And – more importantly – everyone who walked past had their eyes turned skywards, pondering what on earth that tree was doing all the way up there.

For a long time, I’ve admired the saying that goes: “Modern art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t” – and I think this is pretty apt for Wollongong’s new public art.

Contrary to some people’s views, art is not just something that looks nice. It can be, but it can also provoke a response, spark ideas or a conversation. 

The tree up a pole is wacky and strange, fun – and actually almost funny. It makes you scoff, makes you look twice, makes you think.

Maybe it even makes you hate it – but hopefully you can at least reflect why that is. The art work also includes “tree seats” to be sat on or climbed, and a rocky kids playground.

Yeah, they’re just bent palm trees and big rocks, but they’ve changed the way we look at a fairly grey, angular public space that could definitely use a little livening up.

I guess you could say this piece of public art has really grown on me.