A large mural embodying unity in diversity would not be out of place in inner-city Brunswick, in Melbourne, where immigrants and refugees have long lived side by side.
Whether this turns out to be the enormous mural of Jacinda Ardern hugging a relative of one of the Christchurch mosque attack victims, as proposed for the side of an old silo, is currently being considered by Moreland Council.
The project, by Team Silo – including prominent Melbourne firm Breathe Architects – which would see mural artist Loretta Lizzio paint the image on an enormous, privately owned silo in Tinning Street, Brunswick, has run into controversy.
The local community is divided on the suitability of the image for their area, and many are angry at the lack of consultation over the large-scale artwork that would be widely visible and also representative of their area.
A change.org petition was set up to stop the mural soon after the announcement, and the ABC’s Melbourne Facebook page was flooded with comments, some questioning the choice of a non-Australian subject for the mural.
On Wednesday, radio 3AW mornings presenter Neil Mitchell asked the same question:
“It was an iconic photo, I don’t argue with that, but what’s it got to do with us?” Mitchell asked his listeners.
“Why not choose an iconic Australian image?”
The proposal was hatched via crowdfunding on GoFundMe by Team Silo, in which the $11,000 needed to establish the enormous mural was raised in a single day. The goal was to create, as the organisers described, “a beacon of tolerance, love and peace”.
Now this will happen only if the council approve the planning permit, which is still under consideration, but which Moreland City Councillor Oscar Yildiz told Mitchell’s 3AW audience would likely be approved.
Phillip Priest, acting director city futures at Moreland City Council, said the council did not usually have a role in the approval of painted murals unless they were on council land, or commissioned by council.
“In this case, however, the mural is on an unpainted surface of a buildings within a heritage overlay in the planning scheme. Council’s decision is limited to the heritage implications of painting the unpainted surface of the silo; the appropriateness or otherwise of the artistic content of the mural is not the reason that council approval is required.”
Mr Priest said a permit had been applied for and a decision would be provided within the next fortnight.
“Broadly, council embraces public art, accepting that art can make public areas more attractive and enjoyable, give us pride in our public spaces and by its nature art can often challenge perceptions and prejudices,” he said.
Internationally renowned street artist Loretta Lizzio is no stranger to large-scale mural works, having worked on projects in Britain and Canada. To have been chosen to work on such an iconic major mural in her hometown of Melbourne was for her perfectly fated.
Lizzio has been surprised by the vitriol directed at her but remains committed to a large-scale artwork in her hometown that embodies the messages of peace, unity and tolerance, whatever the communal decision is on design.
“The organisers and I want this mural to speak for itself and hopefully be received in the positive and loving manner it is meant for,” Lizzio said.
“This was a local resident, local business and community collaboration-led initiative. Every new project is fairly stressful and challenging, so I just hope I can do it justice. It celebrates a moment of unity and compassion.”
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