Art Town 2016

One of Australia’s most vibrant cultural events is back for 2016, and it’s posed to turn the streets of Melbourne into a Plein-air art gallery.

309Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town.

Art Town is celebrating it’s sixth edition this year, with all manner of artistic wonders set to take over the Chapel Street Precinct for two weekends in April. Art Town will be bringing a variety of live-art experiences to Melbourne, and hosting the talents of many painters, illustrators, photographers, street artists, and sculptors.

310Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town.

Some of the artists featured in Art Town 2016 are Victorian printmaker Tarli Bird, urban projection artist and Melbourne-local Drasko Boljevic, portrait and landscape artist Demian Carey Gibbins, and the Melbourne Urban Sketchers – a global collective of artists who meet up en-masse to sketch, draw, and paint together.

311Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town.

For those unfamiliar with Art Town, here’s a quick run-down of the unique festivities: the event is set to converge on the city over the first two weekends in April. Artists from far and wide will set up on the streets – as well as in co-ordination with Art Town’s retail partners – and get creative. The artists in residence will create all kinds of sensations in all manner of modes, inspired by the Chapel Street Precinct, passers-by, and their surroundings.

Visitors to the event – which will be dotted around Chapel Street Windsor, Prahran, South Yarra, Greville Village and Grattan Gardens, Chapel Street North, and in select galleries and retailers throughout the precinct – are encouraged to get involved and engage with the working artists to help create unique moments, and inspire some beautiful works of art.

I recently had the chance to chat with Art Town’s director Margaret Kernich about the upcoming festivities, the artists on slate this year, and what it is about Melbourne that inspires such a fantastically creative local event:

Outlet Magazine: What is your background, and how did you come to be involved with Art Town?

Margaret Kernich: For the past 20 years my career has revolved around creating special events and bringing them to life. Among many other varied events, I produced and styled fashion shows for the cultural program of Melbourne Fashion Festival over a 5 year period. I also have a parallel career as a Photographic and Interiors Stylist. My educational background is a degree in Visual Arts (Monash University) with Post Graduate work in Art in Public Space (RMIT University). Whilst discussing another event with Chapel Street Precinct, I came up with the idea for Art Town. Now going into its sixth year, Art Town has continued to grow organically from something that started off relatively small.

O: Was ‘Art Town’ created with the intention to fill some void that the founder(s) felt was lacking in the local arts scene?

MK: Art Town was not initially created with the intention of filling any kind of perceived void – however during it’s development we quickly realised the lack of access and opportunities for visual artists in this precinct, especially in terms of exhibition spaces. It was more a case of a spontaneous idea, in the right environment, at the right time. The basis of Art Town was really about the public getting to watch art being made, and the artists interacting with the public, getting their art seen, and hopefully appreciated and maybe understood!

Our live-art weekends are also a place where dialogue is created – around art, of course, but also culture and society.

O: How did you come to choose the artists who are featured this year? And is there a unifying thread which connects the artists involved in the event?

MK: Art Town artists register with the project by completing our online expression of interest form and submit examples of their work. Technique, skill, ideas and experience are all taken into consideration before they are accepted. If a unifying thread does exist, it is would be created by the artists participating in the live-art weekends. While their styles, media and approach may be vastly different from each other, what brings them together as a group is the creation of their artwork on location, within a specific time frame.

O: What does the Chapel Street Precinct offer to the art created out of, and the artists participating in, ‘Art Town’?

MK: I think this is answered best by Art Town Artist Kate Birrell:

“Interesting stuff happens when you work under the gaze of those around you. The shielding walls of the studio are suddenly opened and a degree of vulnerability creeps in, which at times, can wind its way into the work itself. As an artist, you are used to looking at others. But as an artist working out in public, the tables turn, and it then becomes you, the artist that is being looked at. Sometimes it feels more like a performance. One of the reasons I like working outdoors, amongst people is that it forces you to commit; to commit to a time and place, to commit to the line that is made on the surface, be it paper or canvas or whatever. It forces you to commit to those around you, you are being watched, there is an interest in what you produce and what you see. People want to see you follow through, they want to know what you think of them and their world.”

314Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town.

O: What is the significance of incorporating different mediums of creativity in the event?

MK: Art Town welcomes all kinds of visual media – and why not? Surely it takes more than one medium to express the complex creative landscape of the contemporary inner city? If we think back just a couple of years to the breath-taking Melbourne Now show at NGV, one of the reasons that show resonated so well was the diversity of visual media on display and the complexity and layering of media, stylistic, cultural and historical influence, and artistic statements. Art Town is a much smaller, local event but with the same aims, and hopefully similar, dynamic appeal. We do get a great reaction from both the artists and the public, all embracing this diversity.

O: What can people expect from ‘Art Town’, this year? And is there an event which you’re especially excited about?

MK: I think people can expect to see activations in some unexpected places – which is great because one thing Melbournians love is discovering new and unexpected things going on in their city! To help you with all those discoveries, our Art Town Map will be available throughout the precinct (at locations listed below). I’m pretty excited about our first guided walk through the precinct! ArtWalk Melbourne is working with us to create an in-depth and informative experience, which visits many of our artists working out in public space, inside retailers and also to many excellent galleries. It takes place on Sunday 3rd April. It’s a ticketed event – go to eventbrite.com.au and search Chapel Street Precinct.

Here are some highlights:

Ignacio Rojas’ ’The People from our Town’ is an ongoing, interactive community engagement project where the artist creates portraits of people from the streets while having a 25 minute conversation with them – it’s about creating a connection where story telling and painting come together. Ignacio is a very accomplished artist and teacher. Watch out for this project during Art Town. We will post details of his locations on our social media, closer to the event.

Monika Alston is a bit of a wild card – but we like that! It’s partly what Art Town is about. Monika will be painting repurposed woks to create the components of an installation piece outside Tokyo Tina – with the whole installation coming together in the Gallery.

Artboy Gallery in Greville St is hosting artist Kaitlyn Paltridge, who will be ‘painting’ using the HTC Vive system, with the ‘Tiltbrush’ virtual painting application. You will be able to see the artwork being created on screen, and you will also be able to put on the headset and experience the virtual painting for yourself.

Melbourne Urban Sketchers are also such a great group to watch, with so many accomplished artists. They will be working throughout the precinct, on different days, starting with Prahran Market on 2nd April.

312Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town.

O: Could you tell us a little bit about ‘Art Town’ 2016’s participating retailers, and how they are involved with the event?

MK: The Art Town artist-in-residencies were created to give retailers an opportunity to be involved, and participate in an event which is different from their normal day to day retail activity. I put retailers and artists together according to imagery, style and designs, materials etc. Also, we will always have a number of artists who work on paper, using inks or fine pencil with intricate designs – and artists who work in this way will often appreciate a more controlled, indoor location. As Fool designer, Rowena Doolan says:

”It’s so important we remember that good art and design make our lives richer; more imaginative. Drawings, paintings, sculptures, and embroidery can say things that we might not have the words for. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of Art Town this year…”

O: And what about the future of ‘Art Town’? Do you have any hopes or grand plans for the future?

MK: In 2016 we really have reached the stage of becoming a mini-festival. I don’t know about grand plans, but wouldn’t it be great if Art Town could get to the stage of having artists set up in the supermarket! Or have a people-powered kinetic sculpture on the platform of the train station! Both of which are quite possible, by the way.

And while empty retail stores used as pop-up spaces might be the ‘new black’, I hope they also continue to provide rich opportunities of access and exposure for artists, and the public alike.

Pick up an Art Town Map from the following retailers and Galleries:

Artboy Gallery
Anna Pappas Gallery
Alternating Current Artspace
MARS Gallery
Bromley & Co
Fezilla Studio Gallery
Signed and Numbered
Tusk Gallery
South Yarra Art House
So High Gallery
Station Gallery
Salvos Store Windsor
The Windsor Annex
Design A Space
Ladro TAP
Chapel off Chapel
Prahran Market
Union Heights
Kit And Ace
Fool
See Make Play
West Elm

Many thanks to Margaret for taking the time to chat with us.

Art Town will be running on the weekends of the 2nd + 3rd, and 9th + 10th, of April. If you can’t get to the event as it happens, you’ll be able to catch up on the action at Chapel off Chapel gallery from April 26 through May 14. Entry will be free, and the gallery is open from 12pm – 5pm daily. For more information, head on over to arttown.com.au.

You can follow Art Town on:

Facebook – facebook.com/ArtTownChapelStPrecinct
Instagram – @arttownmelbourne.

Photo Courtesy of Lyndel & Daniel/ Art Town