The countdown is on as renowned sculptor Deborah Halpern joins the Be Wise Art Exhibition

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With just weeks until our biennial Be Wise Art Exhibition, we couldn’t be more excited. Showcasing the work of some of the state’s finest artists from March 9 to April 2, it promises to be an important event on Melbourne’s social calendar.

We spoke to Deborah Halpern—one of Australia’s most-loved talents—about the work she will be showing and why she is getting behind the Foundation.

A woman surrounded by sculptures, seated and looking to camera
Featured artist in the Be Wise Exhibition, Deborah Halpern, in her studio

Her colourful outdoor sculptures have been described as the “face of Melbourne.”

While many Melbournites may not know Warrandyte’s Deborah Halpern (pictured above) by name, they would at least be very familiar with her work, including Angel at Birrarung Marr and Ophelia at Southgate (below).

The whopping glass mosaic and metal pieces, erected with the help of a team of engineers and tradies, have earnt her world renown.

Angel is a landmark sculpture originally commissioned in 1987 by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, while Ophelia was chosen as the basis for Melbourne’s tourism image in 1996.

Deborah is also one of 28 brilliant artists taking part in our 2023 Be Wise Art Exhibition at The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat, in Hillcrest Road, Eltham, from March 9 to April 2—underscoring the quality of this year’s show.

She is currently creating a bespoke piece of much more manageable proportions based on the exhibition’s theme of empowerment, optimism, and community.

A colourful outdoor sculpture
Deborah Halpern’s Ophelia

Admitting to working best under pressure in her delightful home studio nestled in the heart of the Diamond Valley, the sculpture will take her about two weeks to create.

Although she prefers to work organically, she has captured some ideas in a traditional ink and brush sketch on paper.

“Most of the work is in forming the idea,” she says. “While it sounds awfully simplistic, the colours and forms have got to be just right—or it won’t work.”

The piece already has a name—Buddy—and will stand about 60 cm high. Featuring two figures with their arms wrapped around each other, it’s designed to represent two people “going through life together and looking out for one another.”

“Respect,”  “consideration,” and “community” are central topics in our conversation with Halpern, 66, who frequently refers to the much simpler world in which she grew up—when Warrandyte (a traditional artists’ enclave) was considered a long way from the city.

As a Diamond Valley local, Deborah says her familiarity with Pat’s story inspired her to take part in this year’s event.

“Being a local, I think the story tends to hit home more. I’ve got a son the same age as Pat and you hate to think of anything bad happening to your children – or anyone else’s for that matter.”

Even to this day, she says she feels a “visceral reaction” simply driving past the hotel where Pat was attacked.

“I think education at a grassroots level is the one the keys to instilling a greater sense of respect and consideration for others, which is what the Foundation does.”

Buddy is expected to be priced at around $20,000 and is expected to be a key piece at the exhibition.

Make a date to see Victoria’s best artists

The 2023 Art Exhibition is one of the Foundation’s important fundraisers, with the money raised assisting our education programs to help prevent social violence.

A special gala evening will be held on Friday, March 17, in conjunction with the event. Popular Gold 104.3 radio host Craig Huggins will MC the event, which will include roaming artist interviews along with an evening of delicious food, drinks, and entertainment.

Tickets to the Gala Evening are $50.

Entry to the exhibition is free at all other times however, with the show also including photographer Brendan Attard,  abstract painters Belinda Nadwie and Jacklyn Foster, oil painter Janine Riches and Swan Hill landscape exponent  Paula Starrs.

To keep up to date with the exhibition and other news, follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Book a Be Wise Presentation here or email us at

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