Driving along Wellington Street in Melbourne’s inner north-east, you may have seen the massive new mural under construction on the side of The Collingwood Housing Estate. Four of the tower’s 2500 residents are currently having their portraits sprayed across the 20-storey building to celebrate the community’s cultural diversity. It’s the latest work from street artist Matt Adnate, who grew up nearby.
The work is a collaboration between street-art collective Juddy Roller (the team behind the 200-kilometre-long Wimmera Mallee Silo Art Trail in Victoria’s north-west) and the state government, and begun following a surprise meeting between Juddy Roller and Planning Minister Richard Wynne.
“Somehow we convinced Richard Wynne, our local member, to come over for a tour of our studio," Juddy Roller director Shaun Hossack tells Broadsheet. “By the end of the meeting he literally said, ‘You know those big towers in Collingwood? Have you ever thought about painting one?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course I’ve thought about it’. But I never thought it’d actually happen.”
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The Collingwood Housing Estate was built in the 1960s and is now one of the largest public housing estates in Victoria. The building’s city-facing wall will be the canvas for the mural. Because it will be visible from highrise buildings in the CBD, the art collective believes they will connect the CBD skyline with the multicultural Collingwood community.
“Those particular buildings … they’ve got a stigma attached to them,” says Hossack. “[The Mural is] going to make the people that live there feel better about where they live and their position in life. And it’s going to make the people walking past that don’t live there understand those people more and humanise them, and realise that they’re just like us.”
Adnate selected the four subjects of the mural based on having a mix of ages, ethnicities and genders, following a community art day.
Five-year-old Ni Na Nguyen and six-year-old Arden Watson-Cropley are the youngest subjects; both children are being raised in the building by their mothers in single-parent households.
Grandmother Badria Abdo migrated to Australia as a refugee from Oromia, Ethiopia, in 2006 and lives in the housing estate managing a disability.
Yulius Antares Taime is a recent resident of the estate, having relocated to Australia from the disputed territory of West Papua, Indonesia just over a year ago.
“I think [the mural] will give them pride, pride of place. It’s going to make them feel like they are a part of the community,” says Hossack.
Internationally renowned street artist Adnate is known for painting individuals from minority communities, most notably his 23-metre portrait of an Indigenous boy in Hosier Lane in Melbourne’s CBD. The Collingwood Housing Estate project will be the tallest mural in the Southern Hemisphere and the artist’s largest to date.
Two of the portraits have already been completed and the full mural is due to be finished in October.