Finalist 2021

FACES PLACES intergenerational community art activation Coburg

Moreland City Council / Steph Hughes / Playable Streets

An intergenerational public art activation created by community... for community...

'FACES & PLACES' is an intergenerational public art activation created by Coburg community members. A local artist designed workbooks used in paired pen/art pal style (one older and one younger participant). Aimed to support community members to reconnect, breathe life back, inspire confidence during the pandemic and to use the creative process to increase meaningful social connections between neighbours creating networks of support and social connection whilst supporting the local creative industry. The final artwork is a mural which features a diverse patchwork of residents' drawings of faces, and the things they love about where they live (online gallery also available).

Design Brief

Artist EoI released May 2020, 7 submissions received to deliver a community-based intergenerational art project, guided by local artists. Aimed at connecting Coburg’s older and younger people within their communities while in continued home isolation and during the slow re-emergence into the public space after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted.
The project sought to address objectives such as:

  • Older people are celebrated in our community and discrimination is addressed
  • Older people have opportunities to participate in, and inform civic life
  • Capturing stories of Coburg’s older and younger community members – interpreted by artist in installation
  • Creating new relationship building opportunities between Coburg’s older and younger community members
  • (Art/Design) that challenges the stereotype of ageing which communicates and celebrates positive ideas of aging.
  • The final artwork will be brought to life, possibly on an exterior wall of Coburg library or at another proposed site/s nearby (dependent upon artist proposal).

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Artists Steph Hughes and Glen Walton thought outside the box, proposing a workbook style pen/art pal process where participation was completed at home, then scanned and arranged digitally by the artists, to form the mural template to then be painted on the external walls of Coburg library. A great example of what engaged placemaking can achieve even during challenging times.

The project needed to pivot from the original proposal of face to face workshops with participants to navigate the new COVID-19 world and associated restrictions. Despite the challenges, the artists were able to design a process where an older and younger participant were paired and able to build a relationship via guided art activities in the workbooks that went back and forth like a pen pal scenario. The design of these workbooks could and should be patented!

With much quarantining and safety protocols implemented once the professional design process was reviewed and approved internally by Council, the project pushed forth - we knew many of Moreland’s residents were now stuck at home… many alone.

The artists exceeded expectations with the entire process. The workbook and mural design process, plus the mural installation show extraordinary ideas and execution. An additional online gallery that merges the images created by participants to create new collaborative images of the project was also agreed upon by the project team for prosperity which went beyond the design brief. Anyone, anywhere can access 'FACES & PLACES' via Playable Streets / Playable Web (weblink included within Design Team section and image included within this nomination).

Design Excellence

'FACES & PLACES' is designed for integration, for an equitable community, for economy, for well-being, for change and for discovery.

Concepts that inform the unique approach to this project include:
- engagement of the senses that connect people to place via art drawn by community members shared with the community in the form of a large, colourful mural in a key public space

- people will fight to preserve this art as it is essentially a time capsule of Coburg in 2020, representing Coburg's favourite faces and places in THEIR community

- design strategies implemented by artists and Moreland City Council provide multiple benefits across social, economic, and environmental values such as:
* intergenerational relationships
* stronger relationship between local schools and Council
a highly transferrable workbook template for use in other projects (with artist consultation) *COVID-19 lockdown friendly project resource
* a pivotal community resource and gathering place of Coburg library now has a key community talking point / attraction to visit
* more visitors to the area and longer visit time benefiting the local economy
* Coburg's multicultural diversity
* recreation and visual appreciation

A great design, not just the mural but the entire project process. The user experience spanned months, using the workbook pen/art pal process which keeps on giving with the final painted mural design and online gallery offering an ongoing visual experience.

The benefits of Council budget invested in local artists / professional design is not a new learning for Moreland City Council, but this particular project does indeed set a new benchmark for design excellence... this project shows that with the right expertise and resources public art can be made by the community... for the community...

I strongly believe artists of this project should investigate patenting their workbook art/pen pal concept.

Design Innovation

The introduction of a new way to source art design via a pen/art pal workbook approach was the only way this project was delivered. Together with the unique artist idea to digitise participant art and present a design in a painted mural. The initial artist proposal was to deliver via face to face workshops, if the project team had not persisted to realise the unique value to participants, this project would have been deferred.

COVID-19 lock downs challenged the project team to solve the problem. The delivery team's persistence, innovation and imaginations responded to COVID-19 obstacles in many ways including:
- practical reality (How could we still deliver this project even though participants could not meet? How could the added opportunity to help people to participate in isolation be realised?)

- utilising delivery options for workbooks that were already available i.e. meals on wheels deliveries, Council employed community drivers on limited work hours due to COVID-19 restrictions, school resource pick ups already scheduled

Below are a few participant quotes received during project evaluation processes that highlight user-centred needs responding to their circumstances and project objectives:

- "The project was like a refuge. I was a bit worried about how my family, and grandma and granddad were going [during lockdown]. This project helped me to feel you're helping while you're not there"

- "I really got into it when we were in lockdown because it was the thing I liked doing and it made me feel calm, relaxed and happy while I was doing it."

- "I don’t have children myself, and I thought 'oh lord these are all young children and I'm a grandmother. What am I doing here? I hope that they accept me. Can I just say to the young people, thank you very very much for having me."

Design Impact

Key outcomes / positive impacts:

- Using story sharing and art between participants built a sense of community resulting in feelings of connection and pride of their contribution to their local area. Participants told us it was important for them to contribute to their neighbourhood.

- Supporting the local economy through further employment of artist "One person asked me to paint his shop and two locals asked me to paint their garages".

- Traders association also employed artist to transform the mural into bin wraps for the Coburg Activity Centre. A great, unplanned uber local economy outcome

- Streetscape improvement. An old brown brick wall in a high traffic retail precinct within the principal activity centre now full of colour and connection to community members

- Ongoing social talking point for locals / visitors. From installation where artists had people of all ages stopping and checking out all the imagery - installation instigated a lot of chatting, smiling, and photography! Below is a selection of social media posts on the project:
* Coburg Good Karma Network (CGKN) - Facebook 11/12/20 - "Next time you are in Coburg check out this awesome brand new mural on the back and side wall of Coburg library, painted this arvo!"
... comments include "Saw it whilst they were only about a third done. History in the making :) :) :)"... "My daughter has been a part of this intergenerational project. Such a wonderful initiative by Moreland council with Coburg PS kids and local seniors! So proud to see their art on the wall!... "It's brilliant. We need more murals!"
* CGKN - Facebook 29/12/20 - "This week we're showcasing the lush new mural near the train station as our temporary cover pic. It's pretty lovely!"
... project participant comment : "Mine is the funny frogmouth"

Creative reputation is increased by such a hands on, community designed art piece and process to achieve such.

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