About the project

Exhibition Details:
Kim Williams and Lucas Ihlein – Sugar vs the Reef?
Artspace Mackay
Civic Centre Precinct, Gordon St, Mackay

Exhibition dates: 3 Nov til 27 January 2019.

Exhibition opening Friday 2 November 2018, 6pm

Exhibition to be officially opened by Jeremy Smith, Director Community, Emerging and Experimental Arts, Australia Council for the Arts.

Artist Floor Talk Friday 2 November, 2018, 5pm (free, Auslan interpreted)

Artist Site Talk Saturday 3 November, 2018, 930am at The Beacon, Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.

Exhibition catalogue available with text by Fiona Vuibeqa, Kim Williams, Lucas Ihlein, Tracey Heathwood

More info here.

– – –


The creation of a botanical artwork featuring agricultural species at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, accompanied by workshops and events.

The purpose of this artwork is to:

  • Create a striking visual art installation for the MRBG, attracting diverse audiences;
  • Demonstrate principles of Regenerative Agriculture (RA);
  • Show how RA principles can be applied within industrial agricultural operations, particularly sugarcane farming;
  • Catalyse improved environmental management practices in the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef;
  • Celebrate the contribution of the Australian South Sea Islander (ASSI) communities in the sugarcane industry in Queensland;
  • Bring together diverse communities within the Mackay region (farmers, Indigenous people, ASSI community members, scientists, and the general public);
  • Generate deeper understanding of the complex roles played by agriculture in the region’s economy, social life and ecology;
  • Engage with public education through schools (including with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Guardians program).

Support for Watershed Land Art Project comes from:

  • Australia Council for the Arts
  • Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens
  • Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF)
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
  • Central Queensland Soil Health Systems (CQSHS)
  • Pioneer Catchments and Landcare (PCL)
  • Yuwibara descendants and traditional custodians
  • Mackay and District Australian South Sea Islander Association (MADASSIA)
  • Artspace Mackay
  • Australian Research Council

ozco logo
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.


View a flyer about the Watershed Land Art Project (May 2018, PDF, 4mb)

The Collaborators

The artists (Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams) live in Wollongong NSW and have been working regularly in Mackay since 2014, at the invitation of local farmers and community activators John Sweet and Simon Mattsson.

Throughout 2015-17, the focus has been on building relationships within the Mackay community, as a foundation for new collaborations such as this project.

The Watershed project involves collaboration between artists, farmers and members of Mackay & District Australian South Sea Islander Association (MADASSIA), Yuwibara Aboriginal Corporation, Central Queensland Soil Health Systems, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Artspace Mackay, and Reef Catchments – and of course the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.

We are continually building our network of community participants – get in touch if you’d like to be involved.


Outside in and inside out – the Beacon and the Gallery

On Friday 2nd November our exhibition Sugar vs the Reef? opened at Artspace, Mackay’s regional gallery. We spent the days prior to the opening installing the show with the support of the wonderful gallery staff – Tracey Heathwood (director), Alicia Stevenson (exhibitions curator), Lauren Turton (exhibitions officer), Billie Jo Ogilvie (public programs), Wanda Bennett (public programs) and …

The Story So Far

In July 2017, a unique collaboration between artists and farmers created Sunset Symphony in the Sunflowers in a paddock in regional Queensland.

The video above tells the story about how the agricultural community was brought together with a wider public in Mackay, and points to the crucial contribution made by the Australian South Sea Islander Community in the history of the sugarcane industry in Mackay.

In 2018-19, the Sunset Symphony team has embarked on a new venture combining art, farming, social history, and contemporary community. Hosted at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, the Watershed project brings regenerative agriculture to a wider public sphere. Explore this website to discover the project as it unfolds…


For more information about the project, or to get involved, feel free to contact the project team:

Lucas Ihlein: 0423 745 736

Kim Williams: 0405 700 142

Kellie Galletly: Education and public events 0438 222 028

email: info@watershedmackay.land