For many, the Darlinghurst stretch of Oxford Street carries distinct connotations – late night boozing and greasy food cravings conveniently catered to by a myriad of fast food possibilities, $2 stores carrying seasonal fancy-dress costumes and unequivocally average restaurants.
However, the famous promenade has a curious history. Throughout the years, it has provided a thoroughfare for various street parades, from those celebrating Federation in 1901, to demonstrations against the Vietnam War and nuclear protests in the 1980s. It's populated by historic buildings (take the National Art School’s famous past life as Darlinghurst Gaol, where hangings were open to public viewing for several decades) and has served as a conduit for commerce (in the later decades of the 19th century, the road gave access to tanneries, breweries, distilleries and hosted grand department stores).
The drag has assumed countless guises over the years and it feels as though the city is working towards another one, with various projects planned to enliven the retail scene and address the issue of affordable rent.
The latest contribution to this endeavour is a 15 x 75-metre mural lining the walls of Foley Street. Called WE ARE HERE, it uses Oxford Street’s story as a throughline. Developed by a group of Sydney-based artists, it’s part of the latest project in the city’s annual Streetware program, which last year saw the conspicuous fluoro makeover of the T2 building at Taylor Square.
The mural covers the rear façade of 82–106 Oxford Street and incorporates its brickwork, roller doors, ducts, pipes, bars and grilles.
Check it out as a sidestep to your next visit to Shady Pines. There’ll also be a pop-up bar to launch, as part of the final Art Month precinct night (Darlinghurst/East Sydney) on Friday March 22 from 6pm to 8pm.