Anyone who has seen Jason Wing's 'In Between Two Worlds' in Chinatown, explored our laneways during Art & About or seen Reko Rennie's 'Always was, always will be' now covering the former T2 building at Taylor Square will appreciate the power of art in public spaces.
Finding art in unexpected places changes your perceptions of that space. Dull and uninviting laneways can be transformed and made exciting, inspiring or even playful.
Over the past eight years, the City of Sydney's commitment to public art has grown. We have fostered more opportunities for emerging and established artists. New permanent artworks have been commissioned and unveiled in our laneways, buildings and other public spaces. We are also providing affordable creative workspaces and we have plans to make it easier for under-used and unconventional spaces to be used for music and other live performances.
Not all public art needs to be officially sanctioned or have formal government approval. Street art which shows wit, imagination and creativity can enliven drab or ugly public space and encourage activity.
Other cities celebrate the creativity of their street art. Melbourne's graffiti lanes are now world famous. They are continually being filmed and photographed not only by tourists, but professional photographers and filmmakers who create new works of art in a creative feedback loop.
The photo works which appeared on the walls of the Goulburn Street Parking Station have improved what many people see as one of Sydney's ugliest buildings. They catch the eye and help transform a brick wall wedged between traffic bollards and train lines into a canvass.
Sydney has many spaces and buildings which could be transformed with the intervention of street artists. Yet some people would still insist that it's nothing but graffiti or vandalism
The test for determining whether 'unofficial' art deserves a permanent place should be whether it enriches the space, makes it more welcoming or better. That's what distinguishes genuine quality street art from vandalism which degrades spaces.
Ultimately, art is a matter of taste. However, the dramatic increase in people attending the Biennale, Art & About and other contemporary art events suggest we are becoming more open and adventurous in our tastes and we want to see work that is not only beautiful, but is also unexpected, provocative and inspiring.
A city which embraces creativity that improves the public space is a far better place to live than one that insists a bare brick wall should always remain nothing more than a bare brick wall.
(This piece first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday 26 October, 2012)