The year’s first “Art Tram” has been launched by the Victorian government, in a creative project that forms part of the Melbourne Festival’s visual arts program.
Every year, the Melbourne Art Trams project invites Victorian artists and community groups to submit designs that turn humble trams into mobile works of art.
“Our trams play such a vital role in getting Melburnians where they need to go – this is about recognising our public transport system in fun and creative way,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.
The concept takes its cue from the Transporting Art scheme from the 1970s, in which artists such as Mirka Mora, Howard Arkley and Michael Leunig, were commissioned by the Victorian government to paint Melbourne trams.
These days, however, the artworks are transferred onto vinyl and “wrapped” around the trams, rather than directly painted on to the surfaces of the vehicles.
The first tram for 2017 has been designed by Bushra Hasan. Inspired by Indian street and tribal art, her work celebrates the Tramjatra project, a collaborative project between artists based in Melbourne and Kolkata in India that has been ongoing since 1996.
Both Melbourne and Kolkata have had continuously operated tram systems since the 1800s, and both cities have a long history of decorating their trams.
“I think it’s the biggest canvas I’ve ever used for my art,” Ms Hasan told ABC radio, speaking of her design.
“The tram is celebrating friendship between the two countries.”
Hasan’s tram is the first of eight that will eventually appear on Melbourne’s network, one of which will feature artist Robert Owen’s homage to Melbourne’s jazz history, while others are to be designed by Warrnambool-based Matthew Clarke and students and parents from St Albans Heights Primary School and Community Hub.
“The Melbourne Art Trams project celebrates two distinctly Melbourne assets – our trams and our creativity,” creative industries minister Martin Foley said.
“The project puts art at the centre of public life and acknowledges the powerful role creativity can play in many different areas – from public art to public transport.”