A note from the editor: This is a guest post by Peter Drew, a street artist originally from Adelaide, Australia.
Although Adelaide’s urban art scene is the underdog to Melbourne, its larger and louder interstate cousin, recent years and new blood have seen Adelaide catching up to Melbourne’s lead. Oi You: Urban Art Festival marks a high point for Adelaide as a private collection of 70 works by ‘the worlds urban art megastars’ visits the city, on view now at the Adelaide Festival Centre through June 2nd.
As crowds flock to the glamour and safety of ‘street art’ in a state gallery, Adelaide’s artists are using the exhibition as a catalyst for painting new walls. In addition to Anthony Lister, Rone and Beastman, local artists Kab 101, Jayson Fox, Vans the Omega, Fredrock, Seb Humphreys, Gary Seaman, Shane Cook and Store are contributing to the +12 murals going up across the city. Organised by Matt Stuckey, this aspect of the festival couldn’t have happened a few years ago. “We actually ended up with more walls than resources to paint them this time” says Matt.
Graffiti first hit Adelaide in the mid 80s and its tradition’s continues with most of the artists involved in the Oi You festival. After trying to eradicate graffiti for years The Adelaide City Council now seems to think that street art is the solution to their problem. According to Adelaide’s Mayor: “it’s frustrating that we spend more cleaning up ugly vandalism and graffiti than we do investing in street art…young artists could be tapping into an opportunity that’s going to bring the city to life.”
While conservative minds still perceive street art as the cure to graffiti, those who actually make street art realise its ability to cure conservative perceptions. Aside from all the commissioned murals happening in Adelaide there’s also more illegal work by the same artists. With so much happening on the street why would anyone go to a gallery? Because, for some people, that’s always going to be the first step.
Festivals like Oi You that use the big names of street art to pull in a broad audience can achieve something important. When that audience is shown how graffiti forms the backbone of the entire counter culture they start to turn against those who want to eradicate ‘ugly vandalism’. In a city like Adelaide where conservative minds still hold sway, this past week has done a lot to change the game.
Photos by John Goodridge