During my stay in Melbourne, I had one full day to see and experience the city.
Considering it’s the “cultural capital” of Australia, there are many aspects of Melbourne life worth checking out. It’s famous for its dining experiences, sporting events, and proximity to the Great Ocean Road.
I ended up focusing on its art. And if the art is anything like my experience in Berlin, art always has something to say.
Through Melbourne’s artistic highlights, including the street art, architecture, and music, I discovered both the controversial and the beautiful.
Street art on Hosier Lane
Melbourne is well known for its brightly colored street art murals found in various locations all over the city (see map here).
The most famous of all is Hosier Lane.
This small street in the central bus district is jammed with huge displays, stenciling, and paste-ups.
Some of the messages were political—bringing attention to prejudice toward refugees seeking asylum in Australia.
Some messages were simply thought-provoking, goofy, or simply awesome.
Taking a step back to view the big picture is as much a good idea as looking up close for the hidden goodies on Hosier Lane. There were glued on figures, sometimes painted over or camouflaged into their spray-painted background.
I almost didn’t catch these faces pressing up out of the corners of the windows. Creepy, or cool?
As I walked the lane, parts had a familiar smell to back home in New York. The smell was that of old, unwashed clothes and poor hygiene. Unfortunately, it's what homelessness smells like.
After a little research, I learned about a great program put on by Youth Projects called The Living Room that has been operating on Hosier Lane for years. The program was originally started to address the city’s heroin problem. Now, the community workers, doctors, and others at the Living Room provide free healthcare, resources, and support to the disadvantaged, homeless and those at risk for homelessness.
It’s an awesome social service. Especially if you're living Melbourne, consider donating to them here.
The Atrium’s National Gallery of Victoria
Opposite Hosier Lane across Flinders Street is Federation Square. The Atrium and Flinders Street Station line the opposite side of the street there.
The Atrium is home to the National Gallery of Victoria. I hadn’t planned to go there but I was drawn inside as a result of “judging a book by its cover.”
I loved the architecture of this building!
One of my favorite exhibits here was John Wolseley’s Heartlands & Headwaters exhibit. In a video, Wolseley explained his technique which is to depict Australia’s natural landscape and literally work with the environment to create markings on paper.
For example, he uses charcoal to reveal the lifespan of wood-boring beetles as they grow and eat their way from birth to death through a log. He also buries paper and retrieves it after many months to see how the environment has manipulated the paper, such as roots growing through it.
Wolseley has a wonderfully unique perspective on the natural world and our place in it. It’s environmental justice through art.
Here’s an excerpt in which he describes the meaning behind one of his enormous paper murals pictured just below it:
Unplugged indigenous art at the Atrium
I was lucky enough to visit the Atrium on the afternoon of their first in a series of annual Unplugged Live events.
Kicking off the series were two indigenous artists.
First, an exhibit by Jonathan Jones called “Blue Poles” was on display. Jones was interviewed live at the event. He discussed the link between his work and modernist artists’ appropriation of indigenous art.
Then, the crowd shuffled down the hallway for a live acoustic performance by Thelma Plum.
I couldn’t catch a glimpse of her beyond all the people. But I could hear her.
Let’s just say I was instantly a fan.
Plum is a proud indigenous singer-songwriter who regularly speaks out in the name of social justice on issues from same-gender marriage to racism in Australia.
This is a perfect segue into an important current event going on in Australia!
Today (on the day I wrote this post), Plum and a few other Australian artists released a song titled “Any other name” in response to the controversy around Adam Goodes, an aboriginal rules football player who keeps getting booed during games for speaking out against racism.
It’s a pretty powerful song, much like this flashmob response in support of Adam Goodes outside the Atrium today, too!
I hope to see the climate for Aboriginals in Australia change for the better real soon!
Luna Park architecture and design
Now with all the heavy stuff acknowledged, let’s turn to something a little more light and fun!
After I spent several hours wandering the Atrium and its many galleries and displays, I hopped the tram down to the St. Kilda beach area. There, I bumped into a famous Melbourne landmark: Luna Park.
Opened in 1912, Luna Park is an amusement park known for its iconic “Mr. Moon” entrance.
Mr. Moon was built as part of the Great Scenic Railway—the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world.
The roller coaster railway runs along the outer edge of the park offering scenic views of St. Kilda beach and Philip Bay.
The railway was built by 20 builders from Coney Island in New York City where the first Luna Park was built in 1903! Additionally, its brakeman-operated carriages were built in the United States then transported to Melbourne. They are the only ones in existence in the world.
I love learning about links between the places I visit and back home!
St. Kilda sunset photography
St. Kilda beach area is a photographer’s dream.
I wandered down the beach from Luna Park and came upon the harbor right when the sun began shooting golden rays through the boat masts.
Lining the rocks off the pier were several photographers set up and ready to capture the sunset scene with the Pavilion in the foreground.
The pier was quite crowded probably because after sunset little penguins return to their boroughs for the night.
Lucky for everyone on this evening, St. Kilda Harbor was glistening gold and the Melbourne skyline was a gorgeous, subdued purple.
This was a beautiful spot to reflect on a day filled with art and hints of social justice.