In celebration of urban art and public space activation, PUBLIC transforms the state of Western Australia each year with large-scale murals by leading international and Australian artists.

PUBLIC is an annual public art festival held in Western Australia that brings together a group of compelling creative practitioners through an open-air exhibition that transforms the city of Perth.

Hosted by FORM, the organising body of PUBLIC, the two-week long festival works with international and local artists to revitalise Perth’s neighbourhoods – both urban and regional – with a series of evocative and provocative artworks emblazoned on Perth’s buildings, laneways and city streets.

Aimed at activating Perth City and the surrounding suburbs, PUBLIC engages with the community through a discourse of art, culture and community. Large-scale murals are the medium through which audiences from the local and broader community are drawn into key activity centres and select suburbs. The varied subject matter and rapid execution of the murals ensure the completed works are made accessible to all audiences through an open-air gallery that enlivens spaces with colour and activity – encouraging a multi-faceted approach to the design and management of public spaces known as ‘placemaking’.

In choosing to place a large-scale exhibition in multiple locations across the state, PUBLIC becomes accessible to a diverse audience – a key philosophy of the festival - and imbues a sense of ownership amongst the audience through their own connection to the public spaces utilised.

Sydney-based global artist and PUBLIC participant Fintan Magee claims, “I grew up in a working class environment in Brisbane, so being young I noticed there was a disconnect between ordinary working people and high-art and the gallery world. My hope is that public art can act as a bridge between the two and bring art into people’s everyday lives and hopefully create dialogue in the process.”

The mix of local and international participants puts Perth and its landscape on a global stage, providing local artists the opportunity the feature their work on an international level and connect with international artists. Featuring both emerging and established artists and focusing particularly on street and urban art, PUBLIC is becoming a platform for the promotion of a wide range of artistic considerations. The fact that the creative process itself also takes place in a public arena encourages a partnership between the artists and the audience in a unique way that often demystifies and humanises the artistic process.

While the aim of PUBLIC is to make high-quality art accessible to all, the process of choosing the sites that become canvases are carefully considered. Identifying architectural, environmental and socio-cultural features that will have the most impact and pairing them with the appropriate artists who will most enrich these spaces is a key design strategy of the festival.

FORM has experienced a number of challenges in delivering PUBLIC in past years, they have noted greater ease in the process recently as councils, recognising not just the economic value of the festival itself but also the long term benefits to the public landscape through art, are seeking more opportunities for involvement each year.

Far from just an ‘open-air gallery’, PUBLIC also boasts a series of symposiums and labs that attract a number of national and international speakers that gather to explore through artistic dialogue what contributes to the well-being of communities, cities and regions for the future. PUBLIC claims to consider “the transformative power of creativity in stimulating a richer community and cultural life, putting people at the heart of planning and action”.

Taking artistic excellence to new heights – literally and figuratively – PUBLIC stands as an extraordinary event that takes art to the streets to enliven disused, non-traditional spaces and transform them into new hubs of activity that promote community engagement and ownership through the use of ‘accessible’ art.

Photography Bewley Shaylor