Walls and alleyways around Perth’s central business district have this week become canvases for international and local artists as part of non-profit cultural organisation FORM’s Art in the City project.
Armed with an arsenal of paintbrushes, spray cans and stencils, 45 artists are transforming 30 walls and laneways into colourful murals and street art installations.
FORM executive director Lynda Dorrington said that the project would draw Perth-siders back into public spaces and attract tourists. “These walls are six to 10-storey buildings and that is going to be huge for cultural tourism. We believe that, as Western Australian starts thinking about diversifying its economy, the city and the life of its citizens starts to take on an important part of its future,” she said. “It is a very conservative state and certainly when it comes to the arts we don’t mind festival, but things like this are rare so we thought we’d shake it up.”
Ms Dorrington said parts of the project would focus on the issue of housing affordability, which she said affected a huge proportion of Perth’s population.
“Many of the artists themselves have experienced being on the street so it is about that continuum between social housing and what the street can do … how we can make these places we want to live in,” she said.
The events would give a much-needed boost to the embattled retail sector, she said.
“For retail to be successful, you have to pull people in to the vibrancy of authentic place making … these artists all have an online following in the hundreds of thousands so that has to be good for business.”
The Uniting Church-owned luxury retail precinct Wesley Quarter is offering up four walls to be painted. Steve Cooke of Lease Equity, which manages the Uniting Church’s property portfolio, including the Trinity buildings and Ross Court retail complex, said the Art in the City would “reinvigorate” the neglected Wolf Lane area of Wesley Quarter.
Puerto Rican street artist Alexis Diaz is chipping away at a mammoth mural on one of the walls. “We’ve given him a cherrypicker because it is a nine-storey wall. That’s a lot of paint,” Mr Cooke said.
“This is on the back of retail being sluggish and will hopefully draw people back in and add an attraction for the office tenants.”
Following its $60m refurbishment five years ago, in a bid to reposition Wesley Quarter as a high end retail location, the Uniting Church plans to further transform the precinct, he said.
“We’re looking at a reassessment of the market because it has changed quite dramatically since the GFC and fashion has struggled quite considerably whereas food and beverage has improved,” said Mr Cooke.
“Our challenge is always trying to bring new tenants in … We’re looking at activating the area between the church and the shops, we’re looking to bring in some form of a casual dining precinct.”