A light-arted look at three of Melbourne’s housing estates

21 September 2015

Housing estates in Richmond, Collingwood and Atherton Gardens (Fitzroy) recently lit up their towers and grounds to shine a light on negative perceptions of the estates.

Space Between Light Festival - Richmond

Residents and locals came together to explore 50 innovative light art installations at the Richmond Estate on Queens Birthday weekend in June.

Bernadette Jennings, Manager Richmond Renewal project said the festival aimed to improve perceptions of safety on the estate and encourage the community to use spaces they normally wouldn’t.

“Issues with lighting and underused parts of the estate have resulted in a low community perception of safety, particularly at night,” Bernadette said.

“We had a great turn out. It was a really great way to bring people together and give some magic and wonder to the estate.

“The festival was a celebration of how art can bring people together, change attitudes and, in this case, increase perceptions of safety,” she said.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival – Fitzroy

For the first time in the festival’s eight year history the Atherton Gardens Estate in Fitzroy showcased projections of local artists’ work on the estate’s towers.

The projections were enjoyed by thousands of festival visitors and residents.

Atherton Gardens’ resident, Magang Reech, a young Sudanese refugee, was involved with the festival.

“It was a great opportunity because it broke down the social barriers between young, old and people outside the estate,” he said.

“It was especially good for young people from the estate to make connections and open their eyes to what’s going on in the community and how they can be involved,” said Magang.

Future Us – Collingwood

At Collingwood estate, it was all hands on deck, as young people took control of the projection booth with the Future Us project. Working with local artists through the estate’s Cubbies and LiveWires after-school programs, young people explored their dreams for the future through painting, collage, drawing, movement, spoken word, songs and rap.

In early August the art was projected onto buildings at Collingwood and Atherton Gardens estates accompanied by songs and audio recorded during workshops.

Caroline Packham, an artist pioneering the project, said it has been great for boosting young people’s confidence and getting them to think about their dreams and aspirations.

“The estates are a fantastic place to work. They are a unique environment where we can get young people participating and then project their art onto their own home,” she said.

“The towers offer a great canvas and portable projection is a really fun and interactive way to get residents involved with the estate in a way they may not be used to.

“There has been such a lovely response from the young people. Their confidence has grown and they have a real sense of how big things can be achieved by working together.

“It has been really good to see them start forming concrete ideas about their long and short-term goals and how they might go about achieving them,” Caroline said.

All three estates achieved similar results by using art and resident involvement to break down barriers and address negative perceptions of public housing.

Image caption: Two young participants at the Future Us event in Collingwood.

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