Generation Art at Sunshine Plaza

Image source: IN Noosa Magazine

Georgia Beard reveals how a new generation of creatives came together to blend art and technology in a trail of interactive installations at Sunshine Plaza’s Sunshine Arts Fest.

Bubble-wrapped, incapable of social interaction and addicted to dopamine hits from their screens – these stereotypes have shadowed Generation Z for the last decade.

Their disaffected predecessors often dismiss the contributions of young people. But this generation has a voice – a passionate, interconnected, inspiring voice that demands our attention.

They care deeply about their communities, envisioning a world where natural environments are nurtured and struggling minds are supported. If we give these young changemakers a chance to express themselves, this could be the future of the Sunshine Coast – a future that belongs to them. 

Bringing their visions to life on multiple planes of existence, Sunshine Plaza’s inaugural Sunshine Arts Fest celebrates the creativity and ingenuity of these young minds. 

Developed by teams of students in visual arts, graphic design, industrial design and technology, interactive art installations appear throughout Sunshine Plaza until 23 July. 

Six local schools invested three months in the creative process with workshops from Sunshine Arts Fest Artist Ambassador Sarah Sculley, our cover artist from Autumn 2023. 

Competing for a share in a $5000 prize pool, each artwork exists beyond the physical, harbouring a digital landscape visible through an app on our phones. 

As tangible artistic expression unites with Augmented Reality (AR), each installation challenges and celebrates what it means to ‘Let the Sunshine In’.

Winding trails, meandering coastlines and glistening river systems decorate a piano, revealing how music and nature nourish our wellbeing; plastic waste collected from the community is recycled into a vibrant marine ecosystem, mimicking the polluted state of our oceans; interconnected sculptures follow a teenager’s mental health journey from all-consuming darkness to liberating light – just some of the scenes on offer. 

Designed by St Andrews Anglican College, one installation collages the Sunshine Coast landscape, from coastal surf to Mount Coolum. In the virtual landscape, rainbow lorikeets soar over the scene, a dolphin leaps from the rushing water and rays of sunlight burst beyond the installation. Amidst the scene, small figures immerse in nature, form friendships and support one another – an illustration of community.

After students volunteered to join the project, Head of Creative Industries Ben Hedstrom facilitated sessions for the team to interpret the theme and visualise the design. 

“Part of the process involved looking at how we might incorporate some key artist influences,” he said. “We looked at honouring Matisse’s practice in the way he would use colour and painted paper samples that were cut up and collaged in a lot of his work. Then we looked at representations of the local landscape by Sunshine Coast artist Jack McCrae.”

From painting, cutting and glueing paper to drawing virtual layers of animation to writing artist statements, a diverse team of students combined their skills to construct the final piece. 

Working with Caloundra State High School students, Team Leader Adam Baker found the collaboration between the Arts and Technologies departments to be the most rewarding outcome.

“I don’t think the art kids and the tech nerds get to hang out too much,” he said. “But once we broke the ice, it was great to see them creating together.”

His students experimented with ChatGPT for their message and while art students designed and assembled the artwork, tech students used their skills to program the interactive AR. 

As they explored the relationship between physical and digital art, the team’s own connections strengthened.

Their final AR installation depicts an angelic figure standing in the clouds, whose wings catch fire and transform while wildflowers bloom to symbolise freedom from negativity, doubt and fear.

The entries can be discovered and viewed in Sunshine Plaza.

It’s our turn to uplift the voices of this generation! 


To bring these virtual worlds of art to life, download the Artivive app, open the app on your device and point your camera at the installation in Sunshine Plaza or on screen at

Vote for the People’s Choice Award until 17 July with every vote seeing $1 donated to headspace Maroochydore! 

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