Lee Black ShearwaterIT'S an abacus, a stainless steel counting frame and it's got the Manning Valley community talking about numbers.

It is installed in the pavement of Victoria Street in Taree outside accountancy firm, GPB Partners, and is proving to be a catalyst for community comment about cost.

GPB Partners commissioned the sculpture and assisted financially for its creation by Lee Black of Shearwater Engineering. It is a community funded project that evoked a storm of comment on social media regarding the need for art in the central business district and how Greater Taree City Council uses its funds.

Graham Brown of GPB Partners is loud and proud of his contribution to the main street and affirms that no public money was used to finance the project.

"I commissioned Lee to design and create an abacus sculpture for the CIVIC heART project," Graham said.

"As our council got on board so well with the Vibrant Spaces trial, I felt it was incumbent on me to do something significant for the street. This is my contribution and it's about making the street a better place to stop, more interesting. The Vibrant Spaces trial is not just about putting stock out on to the street.

"It's attracting attention and yes, I've had people say to me, 'why would council do that?'. I have explained that no council money went into this project and that I funded it.Abacus Ball

"We need to change how we see our town and work to create spaces that make people, particularly tourists, want to stop.

"Vibrant Spaces and this sculpture is part of that, it is about getting people to stop because the street looks interesting. We need tourists to stop, shop and maybe give thought to moving here because our town looks great."
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Graham says it's early days but he thinks the abacus is impacting on the feel and activities of people in the street and "generally the shopkeepers around the place think it is fantastic".

The abacus stands around two metres tall and three metres wide, is made of stainless steel and features 35 moveable balls and according to Graham, "is designed to be interactive as we want people, particularly children, to engage with the sculpture."

Lee says the design relates to our area with the peaks representing our mountains, the smooth flowing curves the Manning River, the balls are the floats that our fisherman use and the boomerang shape represents our Aboriginal community.

He shares Graham's vision to try to revitalise the central business district of Taree. He and his wife, Carissa and their two-year-old daughter, Jarrah call Cundletown home and he hopes that one day "people will see and value the beauty of our area and the opportunities here."

Abacus installation

"We need to do something to make people want to stay. We have got to have some art and chairs to make the space inviting for people, we want them to come and sit around, enjoy the area and shop.

"It's heaps better than going into a shopping centre. You're out in the open, the sun's shining, happy days!"

Lee says he is committed to staying in the Manning Valley and with that decision comes his desire and decision to contribute to the community.

"I'm staying, most of my friends are staying, you've got the beach, the river, we can go wakeboarding, skiing, fishing, but something needs to change in our main street," Lee said.


"My sculpture is part of that and I think Graham is doing a great job."

Read the original article in The Manning Times