Hobsons Bay City Council chief executive officer Aaron van Egmond has once again made headlines in Hepburn, courtesy of his previous employer Hepburn Shire Council, over two mystery murals and claims he paid $30,000 to an artist without consultation.
In May 2018, Aaron van Egmond commissioned artist David Bromley to produce two mural artworks for the new Hepburn Hub at The Rex in Daylesford – a development Mr van Egmond was project managing until his departure from the Council a month later.
During a council tour of the stalled Vincent Street development, the mural artworks captured the attention of a journalist at a local newspaper, which was possibly due to the fact that one of them features a furry friend.
According to the reporter, there is one mural with buildings, butterflies and what appears to be a rat looking up at the scene. The second mural is believed to have been covered with black plastic and not on display at the time of the tour.
An investigation by the local newspaper resulted in Hepburn Shire Council’s current chief executive officer Evan King confirming the works were commissioned by former CEO Aaron van Egmond – with no reference to the shire’s Public Art Panel.
“We are unclear as to why the Public Art Panel was not consulted regarding the commissioning of the artwork. The former CEO worked directly with the artist on the commission,” he said.
“The cost to commission David Bromley to provide interior design advice, source furniture and discounted paint and paint the murals was $30,000. The entire project is currently subject to an external audit requested by council.”
Hepburn Shire Council Public Art Panel chair Sue Walker said it was “astounding” that the advisory committee, which was formed five years ago, had not been notified about the project.
“It seems a very strange thing to happen in local government. This is a very creative part of the world and to do something without it being publicly called for is a huge shock. The lack of process is astounding,” she said.
Hepburn Shire Council’s Public Art Policy states that Council’s decisions on public art projects will be ‘informed by advice from an independent panel of experts’ and will ‘comprise members with a wide range of professional and community art expertise’.
Willy and Hobby contacted Aaron van Egmond’s office at Hobsons Bay City Council for comment on this story, and it appears there are two very different versions of the story, depending on who you hear it from.
“David was engaged to provide an extensive range of services, primarily interior design services, interior fitout and curatorial services, plant and furniture selection and procurement, paint and material selection,” Mr van Egmond said.
“The work referred to as murals are a minor part of David’s engagement. These were selected as a cost-effective alternative to custom wallpapers or other wall treatments in order to create an interesting aesthetic over a large expanse of plaster wall. These works were not a public art commission.”
“David has played a large role in providing interior design advice across the entire building. His services have been delivered over an extended period of time and were to continue to the completion of the project.”
Aaron van Egmond notified Hepburn Shire Council of his resignation effective on June 1, 2018. He commenced his current role at Hobsons Bay City Council as its newly appointed Chief Executive Officer on June 12, 2018.