Melbourne's 86 tram route as a giant open air gallery of street art

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Melbourne, Australia is internationally known for its street art and its trams. Melbourne Street Art 86 imagines Melbourne's 86 tram route as though it were a giant open air gallery of street art with its own regular tram service. The pages in the dark blue side bar below have photos of street art by the suburbs the tram passes through. Locations are noted by tram stop, street location and also on maps of the area that can be downloaded or printed. Other Melbourne suburbs rich in street art are also featured.

Take me to the site guide and quick gallery of street art CLICK HERE.
Tell me more about the 86 tram & sights along the way CLICK HERE.

Site origins and information

General information




Melbourne Street Art 86
Hi, my name is Kevin Anslow and I put this site together. Melbourne Street Art 86 is a hobby or labour of love, not a commercial or professional enterprise. It is the result of over 200 hours of exploring Melbourne streets with a camera, cataloging the locations of works and designing and building the various elements and pages of the site. Although I work these days largely as an administrator and researcher, I have a background in desk top publishing, so I was able to use those skills to bring a bit of polish and consistency to the design and layout.

Melbourne Street Art 86 is essentially a free community resource for finding art that is also free, because it is largely created in public spaces. The tram service of course, is not free, though compared to the cost of maintaining and running a vehicle, and compared to the cost in other major world cities, it is not pricey. The tram is however, also a public space.

Hopefully the site will make some of the street art across the northern Melbourne suburbs on the 86 tram route more accessible to Melbourne residents, and also to overseas visitors who come to the city hoping to see what has increasingly become one of Melbourne's major tourist attractions. It is also intended to promote Melbourne, the use of public transport, and to give people elsewhere in Australia and overseas, who might not have the opportunity to visit, some enjoyment some of vivid and evocative artworks from Melbourne's urban landscape.


Why the 86 tram route?
There were many ways I could have presented a website to help residents and visitors find and enjoy a range of the street art across Melbourne's urban landscape. That this site focused on the 86 tram route was influenced by a number of factors.

It is partly just the way it evolved, particularly given that I travel the 86 route at some point most days of the week; exploring the street art along the way was simply convenient for me and a rediscovery of familiar territory in a new way. I also had to have some kind of focus or boundary to the scope of the site, because there is so much street art in Melbourne and its suburbs, it would probably take a team of people and many days if not weeks to document and map it all.

There are also train lines that pass through areas with a lot of street art and there are examples on Youtube and Google Maps of walking tours of Melbourne that have some similarities with Melbounrne Street Art 86. I felt that the virtue of a tram line is that the service is frequent and there are numerous stops along the way. Following the tram route to encounter a range of street art, makes it a easy and manageable experience for a visitor. And the 86 tram not only passes through areas with some of the best, varied and most interesting street art in the city, but also some of the most interesting parts of Melbourne to visit, including some of the major city landmarks and attractions.


Other locations pages
I had not originally intended to post street art from suburbs that are not on the 86 tram route. However I spent a bit of time looking through the sorts of information available to visitors about street art in Melbourne online, and noticed that it typically focused on the City of Melbourne, and lanes in the southern part of the central business district in particular.

This is only a small fraction of the vast wealth of art to found in the city. The other locations pages developed as a way of showing visitors that, in addition to the suburbs such as Collingwood, Clifton Hill and Northcote, I have featured in the core part of the site, some of the best street art is in other parts of the CBD and other inner Melbourne suburbs.

It also gave me an excuse to explore places like Abbotsford, Richmond and Prahran more thoroughly than I had previously and also places I had not previously explored, such as St Kilda and Brunswick.  Although the Other locations pages do not have maps and guides, I may get an opportunity to do those later in the year. For the time being, at least they have location references.


Postscript
Lastly, I am not directly associated with any street artists and have never practiced the art form myself; most of what I know about street art comes from book learning, word of mouth and going out and seeing the art for myself.


In the words of others

Contact
If you would like to contact me with corrections, suggestions, comments or just to drop me a line about whatever my contact details are here. More information about me and my other amateur projects is also available on that site and it is also a blog, largely about perception and the writing process.

Alternatively leave a comment on this page, or any other page on the site.


Putting the site together

Locations

To avoid having to worry about writing notes while exploring, and to focus on the work itself while in the field, I took photographs of street signs and/or landmarks before or after taking a series of photographs at a location. Afterwards I could usually identify the locations against a map of the area using these reference photos. In some cases I used Google Street view to check the geography if I wasn't sure, and also to remind myself of what site users might see from a distance as they moved from location to location in a more logical fashion than I had, when I explored one side of a street one day, returning from work in the evening, and the other side early one morning.


Photographs



The photographs are taken with a Nikon Coolpix S6400 at 16mp and reduced for site use. Although this is a fairly low end, basic camera, probably aimed at holiday and family photography, its seems to produce pretty good images and it is small and easily carried in a belt case, ready for whenever a photo opportunity arises. It also has a 12x optical zoom and wide angle lens, which was helpful for a lot of the photographs taken for this site.

I don't have much experience with the technical side of photography and have used auto settings on the camera in most cases, but that has tended to suit the sometimes rough and ready nature of exploring Melbourne streets, lanes and alleys in the limited time I have available working full time.

Quite a few photos have been cropped and post processed to make details clearer using Camera Bag 2 and occasionally Photohop CS6. Many have been taken at the end of the day when light is not ideal in some locations; I intend to gradually replace dark or overshadowed photographs with fully sunlit versions or the best alternative where possible, as an ongoing project.

If you would like copies of any of the photographs please let me know; I am happy to share.  I will state here a creative commons license for use once I have figured out which is the most suitable.

Maps and diagrams


The maps and diagrams are created in PowerPoint 2007. Although Adobe Illustrator would have been a more sophisticated and versatile option, I have used PowerPoint for many years in production environments under pressure, and so I could work more quickly on what were sometimes very tricky layouts, than in Illustrator, which I have used less often.

Guides


The guides were created in Word 2007, which, although a word processor is ideal for creating documents with these kinds of simple lay outs.

The website
The site itself is put together using Blogger's fairly basic editor, with a bit of HTML tweaking when I couldn't get elements to behave the way I wanted them to.


The genesis of the site (repeat of first blog post)

Its funny how ideas and inclinations develop sometimes.

And its an odd thing how something can be all around you but you just don't see it. Human beings tend to follow scripts - familiar patterns of perception - and there are times when following these scripts makes us blind to the most obvious things.

To give you an example, I once trained as a fire warden and the trainer asked us what we thought people typically did in a fire.

"Run away", we all said.

"No, what they usually do is go towards it," he told us. And he then showed us a video of numerous examples of people doing just that, including a woman taking a pram with a young child into a convenience store that was going up in flames. Most of us have no script for what to do in a fire, and many of us can miss the obvious in many other circumstances for much the same reasons.

At least that is my excuse...

I had no idea until recently, that Melbourne is one of the major street art capitals in the world, and the work of its streets artists is a major tourist attraction. I also knew very little about street art. I had seen photos of it and heard about it in the news, mostly in relation to Banksy whose art very much appealed to my political sensibilities, but I wasn't really aware of how significant and widespread an art form it has become. 

It had never occurred to me there was much street art in my home city or to go exploring to see what was there. It certainly never occurred to me that the 86 tram that I take to and from work each day passes through areas with some of the richest concentrations of these vivid and evocative images in the city.

The reason I made this belated discovery is that I bought a small but effective digital camera in November 2012 and have spent many evenings and weekend days since roaming my local area and parts of city taking photographs. With a digital camera you can just snap away happily at anything that sits pleasingly in the frame. 

The first day I went out with the camera back in late November 2012, I wandered around my home suburb of Northcote and happened to snap the following photo.

Street Artist working on piece at the South end of Eastment Street in Northcote in November 2012

It is quite possible this formed a kind of seed somewhere in my unconscious mind, but at the time I thought not much of it. As I took more and more photographs, I started to look through them periodically, partly searching for themes among them that might make interesting blog posts for my new website. After a while I started to notice how many street art pieces I had either photographed directly or caught accidentally in frame.

I also started to notice how similar a lot of this art was to the illustrations I had tried to create when I was a computer graphic artist in the early 1990s, and indeed computer graphic systems of the time were most effective at creating. And regardless of what it reminded me about my earlier career as an artist, there was something about the sensibilities of the work that captured my imagination - why else would I spend so much time hunting it with my camera in hand. I also became more curious about the form, and read a little more into it online.






Often dreamlike, vivid, striking and highly imaginative, it is an art form uniquely of our era, postmodern at times but often very cutting politically and expressive of the conscious and unconscious landscape of our times, in particular for those not part of the mainstream of our society. It breaks the convention of art belonging only in a frame and being coveted in the homes of those affluent enough to afford the work available in galleries and shows. Street art is never exclusive, it is always available in its original form to anyone who takes the time to find its location.




It also has the power to transform dull or blank surfaces and entire buildings into something unique. In areas of where it is has become common it has often been embraced by the local community as bringing colour and life to the urban environment. For some street art has become a part of local culture to view with pride...

Though in others it has instilled anger and calls for increasingly harsh retribution and many local councils are forced to spend millions of dollar removing it and its sometimes inseparable cousin, graffiti, from the environment.

Street art is highly controversial as it is created in public or semi public spaces, often upon the walls and surfaces of private property. Some street art is created with the permission of owners, but not all. Anything that claims and re-invents a space owned or considered private property is likely to clash with our society and its laws and mores elevating property rights and the fruits of material gain far above more human considerations. Street artists caught practicing their art without permission can be looking at a two year jail sentence, a pretty stiff punishment considering the sorts of crimes that attract far less penalties.

Example of tagging (on a wall next to a church in central Northcote)

There is also the issue of whether street art is vandalism, eyesores that citizens are forced to endure as they go about their daily lives. Some feel this way about even the most intricate and beautiful examples of the form. And where does the perhaps less than pleasant effect of multiple messy, badly executed tags making a wall look like a spider's nest of dirty scribbles, cross over into something that is art. Is there a black and white difference between the tagger who starts with brief scrawls and with time begins to produce more thoughtful and generous work that the community might admire and enjoy? 

With these thoughts developing. I started to work on a blog post about street art and as I progressed, I felt I needed photographs of more examples and indeed needed see them myself to understand more about what I was writing about. So I started to explore along the 86 tram route, and found more and more examples to study and photograph in side streets off the tram route and hidden in alley ways beyond. Before long I had nearly 400 photographs; far too much material for a single blog post. 

Hence I created some pages on my personal website to show case what I had found. I soon realised however that my personal website about my own artistic processes was not the most appropriate  place to include a high volume of the work of other artists. I soon decided a separate website, giving sole focus to these artist's work was necessary.

There are already many other websites that showcase and explore street art; I felt that to legitimately add to what was already on the web I needed to have some kind of theme or focus. I had already been working on a creative project relating to Melbourne public transport - in this case Melbourne train stations - so it was perhaps a natural progression to build my site around the street art to be found on a particular tram route that is rich in examples of the form.

Thus, perhaps, I went from a single photograph taken of a street artist last November, though a gradual awakening and discovery process, and a slow but steady peculation of ideas and impressions building in my unconscious mind, to creating an entire website a few weeks later.

It may well evolve with time. I have a mind to add my own comments and reaction to some of the art and add essays and links to interviews and articles. With many other projects to work on this year, including a book for an American publisher, the fruits of such notions may be some time coming. For the time being I will mainly be working on improving some of the photographs that are dark or overshadowed and completing street art maps for each suburb.

As I update the site with this or other things, I will add posts in the main blog space.

For now, whatever this site may become, it is basically a kind of online guide book or selective journey along the 86 tram route, hopefully giving inspiration to others to hop on an 86 one morning and spend an enriching and enjoyable day hopping off the tram from time to time to seek out some of the wonders I have showcased here, and perhaps explore further afield and make some discoveries of their own.

best wishes

Kevin Anslow
86 Tram Stop 32, Melbourne

3 comments:

  1. Very informative stuff you have shared here. I am glad to visit this awesome blog. Thanks for everything.

    ReplyDelete