Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, joined artist and graphic designer, Bushra Hasan, for the official launch of the opening month, and to celebrate the collaboration between the lovers of Melbourne trams and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).
Inspired by the Indian streets and tribal art, the designs thought of by Ms Hasan take part in the Tram Travel project, a collaboration that permits artists and local citizens to decorate the trams of the two cities.
The initiative began out of a trip to Kolkata by Roberto D’Andrea, artist and ex “connie”.
Mr D'Andrea’s passion for this sector and subsequent a career aboard trams, led the Italo-Australian to explore the network in West Bengal’s capital, where wooden carriages circulate with the typical “ding”, which also resounded on the streets of Melbourne in the 1990s.
He soon formed tight friendships with some Indian colleagues, noting the similarities, and differences (“the traffic of Kolkata has gone mad, just like those of Catania,” Mr D’Andrea joked), between the two systems and how the trams are at risk in the metropolis.
Over the last 21 years, there have been various tram paintings in Kolkata and a documentary about this was screened last August at an Indian Film Festival.
Designed to add colour and creativity to your daily commute, the new Art Trams have been brought to life by artists such as Robert Owen – whose work is a tribute to Melbourne’s jazz history – Warrnambool resident Matthew Clarke, and the students and parents of St Albans Heights Primary School and Community Hub.
Now in its fifth year, the project invites Victorian artists and community groups to present designs which transform trams into mobile works of art, changing the look of the city streets into a place where people can celebrate, create, protest and give life to new stories.
“My project references Melbourne in its complete size, colour, shape, proportion and life. I come from the country, and the city can be exciting and overwhelming for people like me. As an artist with an intellectual disability, I am proud that we can demonstrate that having a disability doesn’t constitute a barrier to making art,” Mr Clarke said.
Once all the trams have begun to run, a public vote will be held to give an artist the chance to win $5,000 and the “People’s Choice” award.
The idea behind the Melbourne Art Trams project dates back to the Transporting Art project between 1987 and 1993, which saw the participation of artists like Mirka Mora, Howard Arkley and Michael Leunig, commissioned by the Victorian Government to paint the trams of Melbourne.
Though the techniques used to decorate the vehicles have changed, the spirit of the project - which has the objective to celebrate Melbourne trams and show contemporary art on a large scale - remains.
The project is the result of a collaboration between Creative Victoria, Public Transport Victoria and Melbourne Festival with Yarra Trams, and the artistic trams will be circulating until the end of April 2018.
The other artists who are a part of this initiative are: Emma Anna, Josh Muir, Justine McAllister and Oliver Hutchinson.