As street art has evolved and become more mainstream, a new audience has been found – the kids who live in the areas where artists strut their stuff.
And rather than covering their darlings’ eyes to protect them from the scribbles of taggers, the profanity and the inexplicable, savvy inner city parents are exposing their children to street art, to kickstart their creative development.
Street art has begun to feature in children’s books, and school holiday art programs are likely to incorporate a street element. Wilkins Public School in Sydney’s Marrickville recently had street artists Akisiew, Bafcat and Jumbo create giant murals on the school entrance and library. A bit further west, Dulwich High is a new Visual Arts centre, where street art heroes like Skulk run workshops for the next generation.
Areas where street art is prolific are dense and accessible, so there’s always lots of people taking in the art, on informal and formal walking tours. (The idea for our first book came while pushing our sleeping newborn along Marrickville’s graffiti-rich back streets, and now other parents take their kids on treasure hunts to find the Stripey Street Cat.)
Why not plan a walking trip yourself? Take your time, get lost, discover something nobody else has seen. And go back again and again, because it will all have changed, that’s one of the great beauties of street art, its immediacy, and its confrontingly short lifespan.
Bring your camera, and bring a camera for the kids – they will amaze you with their different perspective on the art.
Here’s four of the best family friendly street art hotspots in Sydney and Melbourne for you to check out on foot, and some honourable mentions:
Newtown, Enmore, Marrickville, St Peters
This area showcases the diversity of street art… murals and paste ups and tags, elaborate pieces, and minute stickers and sculptures. It has a great mix of legal and illegal work, by artists like Akisiew, Hazzy Bee, Fintan Magee, Birdhat, Ears and Skulk, and stencils like The Stripey Street Cat, Pissing Boy and monstery.
Start at Camperdown Park in Newtown. The cemetery wall, featured in The Girl Who Made Rainbows, features works going right back to the late 80s. Then check out the famous Martin Luther King mural on King St. Station Lane hosts the Akisiew/Hazzy Bee masterpiece “The Birds of Arkansas”. Walk west to see a cluster of spectacular murals on Phillip Lane, the ever-changing walls at the corner of Enmore Road and Newington St, and the Live to Create mural on Scouller St.
Stop for lunch at the family-friendly Vic on the Park, which has a huge street art wall out the back, where you might even see a work being created. Then head east on the 308 bus from Marrickville Metro to May Lane at St Peters, one of the best legal street art sites around (and it’s opposite Sydney Park, if the kids need a break.)
Regent Street, Redfern
Among the emergent retro stores and new cafes, muralists Bafcat and Jumbo have created a series of imaginative and beautiful pieces. It’s not far from Redfern Station, and you can loop back via the Australian Technology Park with its fantastic old workshops and machines and dimly lit cathedrals of columns and archways.
An honourable mention to the large legal wall at Bondi Beach, which is updated regularly, and has the advantage of being near a skate park. Oh, and Bondi Beach.
Melbourne’s lanes are the jewel in Australia’s street art crown. Almost anyone who is anyone has pasted, sprayed, drawn or scribbled in its filamented ecosystem. I’ve seen a Banksy, a paste up dedicated to Aboriginal cricketer Eddie Gilbert, and ”Bill Henson can’t paint” graffiti. Miso made her name here with elaborate paste ups that tore at the heart, and Be Free’s pieces always achieve a perfect, poetic synergy with their settings.
Amongst the service shafts and garbage compactors, Centre Place has nooks and crannies full of visceral pieces, great places to eat and shop, and possibly the most breathtaking 100m of urbanity in Australia. Degraves St always has a new paste-up or two. Hosier Lane is one long mind-blowing canvas, of colours and layers and competition over style and place. Union Lane is a fantastic canyon where new artists often come to show off their stuff. And there’s about another 30 laneways with street art and cool shops and cafes.
The grid of streets either side of Brunswick St are replete with works, especially around Rose St – you could combine a trip with a visit to the Artists’ Market on weekends. Clever pieces take advantage of the walls and poles and hydrants.
On the east side of Brunswick St around Argyle St, there are fabulous pieces on fences and buildings, their grittiness thrusting against the quaint bluestone pavers. Along Johnston St toward Collingwood, there’s a cluster of studios, giving birth to impromptu installations and pasteups, and pop up cafes and bars.
About the author
Peter Warrington is half of Not Quite Newtown, publishers of street art photography books for kids. Check out the crowdfunding campaign for the latest offering “you make the dreams” – featuring Akisiew – at http://www.pozible.com/project/187175
All photos copyright Rachel Williams, Not Quite Newtown