Red Boot Store sculpture unveiled

By Rhys Williams

As part of a new artistic vision for the town, Arts Rutherglen has memorialised the historic Red Boot Shop that was reduced to rubble during the destructive tornado that struck in 2013.

Submerged by dirt, the tessellated tile shop entrance to Williams Cumming’s boot store was all that was salvaged when the extreme weather event ripped through the town. 

But as an ode to the store, a contemporary red boot sculpture that features an inscription of its history now accompanies the old tile entrance, as part of Arts Rutherglen’s ‘Portals into Rutherglen’ project. 

The project, which combines art with history, has been identifying several key historical buildings in Rutherglen where an anecdote is taken and formulated into an artistic idea.

The Red Boot Store is the second unveiling of the portal series, after the first installation was revealed late last year featuring an art piece of Archibald Gordon Aitken, who established Aitken and Fullerton Grocers in the prominent building now occupied by Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre.

The arts committee’s public officer Irena Webster hopes that the outcome will garner wide recognition for Rutherglen as an artistic hub.

“We want to put Rutherglen on the map as an arts-based community,” she told the Free Press.

“Instead of jumping on the silo art we decided to do portals, which are an opening into the streetscape’s of Rutherglen and its history.

“The whole aim is for the community to engage with it, but also for tourists so they can be impressed by the contemporary art works while learning about the history of our town.”

The boot sculpture commemorating Williams Cumming’s store was brought to life by Wodonga artist Michael Laubli who spent two months working on his modern spin of a traditional sturdy work boot.

Williams Cumming arrived to Australia in 1890 from an impoverished background in Scotland, first settling in Melbourne as a manager of a high class boot factory in Collingwood.

Due to poor respiratory health, William and his family moved to Rutherglen in 1897 where he opened the Red Boot Shop.

With Rutherglen being a prominent wine and vine growing epicenter along with gold mining, good working boots were in high demand which ensured the sustainable success of his store.

Mr Cumming was a pillar of the Rutherglen community and contributed enormously to the music scene by organising and judging music events and he also served as a councillor. 

Arts Rutherglen are to unveil more portals in the upcoming months.