PUBLIC is an ongoing series of events aimed at enlivening Perth City and the surrounding suburbs; engaging these communities in a discourse surrounding arts, culture, and community. In 2015, PUBLIC focused on large-scale murals within Perth and a number of other city suburbs, using this medium as a means to engage wider audiences with the sheer scale, rapid execution and varied subject matter of the murals.
Locations for the murals were chosen at activity centres in key suburbs, ensuring the PUBLIC experience was not confined to the CBD but made the ‘open-air gallery’ accessible to all audiences. Specific mural sites were chosen in areas in need of activation and colour, as well as based on their visibility and appeal to the artists.
PUBLIC 2015 was innovative in its design and implementation, taking a large-scale exhibition out onto the street at multiple locations across the state, and facilitating broader access to diverse audiences. Local artists were granted the opportunity to feature their work on an international level, and to exchange and connect with international artists. The broader program, including the Symposium and SALON, encouraged critical discourse around design, art, and creativity, and contextualised the physical exhibition. The project formed unique collaborations and cross-sector partnerships between artists and audiences alike.
PUBLIC contributes to contemporary practice within the creative sector by enabling the people of Western Australia to experience unique, high-quality art within the public realm.
The design strategy in approaching PUBLIC is far more expansive than regular exhibitions or events. The key philosophy is to ensure the exhibition is accessible to all. The process of matching artists to sites is approached from a curatorial perspective; identifying architectural, environmental and socio-cultural features, and pairing appropriate artists to address these spaces.
The public perception of street art is a key issue FORM – the organising body of PUBLIC - sought to inform and challenge. The notion that street art is equivalent to vandalism and does not contribute to the cultural fabric of our city was addressed through the selection of highly skilled, internationally renowned muralists and creatives. By getting them to work in prominent spaces it put spectacular art at the forefront of the city.
The challenges to delivering PUBLIC were varied, ranging from protracted council approval processes to site-based constraints, such as proximity to roads and pedestrian thoroughfares. As a result, the project was carefully planned and executed to ensure safety for all, while still allowing spectators to view the artists at work. Most Councils required formal development applications submitted for each site and mural, with the artist allocated and consent granted by the owners. Following the project’s launch, FORM saw a number of local councils seeking opportunities for future involvement and minimising their process for approval of similar works.
As a curated festival of people, energy and creation, PUBLIC not only excels within, but advances industry practice by redefining the boundaries of traditional event design, realising the future experience of everyday public spaces through art.
Artistic excellence, one of FORM’s major objectives, takes centre stage in the success of PUBLIC 2015. Across week one of the two week-long festival four major exhibition openings took place, in addition to the open-air mural exhibition: SALON; Recrafted; Power of Place; and Ian Strange: Shadow. Binding all of these events, the mural exhibitions saw open-air galleries created in Claremont, Chinatown, Leederville, Victoria Park, Fremantle, Port Hedland and the Wheatbelt, with additional artworks in Northbridge and the Perth CBD.
PUBLIC 2015 demonstrated excellence as an exhibition and event at the forefront of the arts industry by taking art to the streets to enliven disused, non-traditional spaces around the city, and transform them into hubs to promote art and the people creating it.
Many of the festival’s events, including SALON and Symposium, encouraged a focus not only on established but also emerging talent. PUBLIC 2015 was launched in the city with PUBLIC SALON, an exhibition of artwork by 100 Western Australian artists hung wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling in a temporarily repurposed venue. The installation reflected the diversity of creative talent in WA, featuring both emerging and established artists, and focusing particularly on street and urban art in association with PUBLIC.
PUBLIC 2015 demonstrated industry leadership as an exhibition, extending far beyond the paint on the walls and deep into the roots of the community through its people. It set itself apart from other festivals by facilitating a unique combination of events that support and provide a platform for thought leadership and cultural exchange.
Over 700 people attended the PUBLIC Symposium and labs in 2015 to listen to and be inspired by 26 national and international speakers. The overall dialogue explored what is necessary to shape the well-being of communities, cities and regions for the future. It considered the transformative power of creativity in stimulating a richer community and cultural life and putting people at the heart of planning and action.
PUBLIC Symposium was put into place to highlight the power of the individual within a community, evoke a sense of one’s position in the bigger picture, and enrich the festival with a palpable feeling of inspiration. In creating this dialogue and shared experience, PUBLIC injects its surrounding spatial environments with a rich human quality and looks at the potential for art to impact the ‘bigger picture’ through our communities, environments, places, spaces, and most importantly, people.
In foregrounding results of creativity and innovation for the common good, PUBLIC 2015 embodied a number of aspects of FORM’s key objectives, including place activation, community building and economic empowerment through art.
Courtesy of Parks & Leisure Journal Summer edition – available 1 December. CLICK HERE to subscribe and read the full article.
Images (top to bottom): Artists – HENSE and Phlegm; Artist – HENSE; Artist – Curiot; Artist – Amok Island.