2016 marks the third consecutive year that FORM, a non-profit arts organisation based in Perth, has held Public festival in their home state of Western Australia. The aim of the festival is to promote art, urban activation and creative conversation through street art. Each year a line up of talented international and local artists are engaged to produce amazing murals for the publics benefit.
This years artist line up included some familiar faces as well as many new ones, a lot of whom I hadn't heard of before. This is one of the festivals biggest strengths, exposing the people of Western Australia to many different artistic backgrounds and styles from around the world. The line up for Public Campus 2016 consisted of Hense (USA), Add Fuel (Portugal), Borondo (Spain), Edoardo Tresoldi (Italy), Stormie Mills, Rastam Qbic (Russia), Tellas (Italy), Millo (Italy), Karim Jabbari (Tunisia), Amok Island, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Chris Nixon, Hayley Welsh, Jessee Lee Johns, Jae Criddle and Liam Dee.
Public festival was situated at three different locations this year - Claremont, Curtin University and Albany in the state's Great Southern region. Curtin University was the location of Public Campus, a week long event held from the 4th of April til the 10th of April. Holding the festival within the university grounds was ideal as the artists were located in close proximity making it easy to walk around and view them all.
Curtin University is certainly a lot more lively now than when I was studying there ten years ago. I was very jealous of the many food truck options they now have for lunch and the colourful bean bags scattered over the grassed areas for the students to sit on. I was also encouraged to see the beauty in the Brutalist design of the University's older buildings which I had always thought of as uninspiring. I had never really taken notice of the off-form concrete walls which have been patterned with planks of wood, a feature that made many of the artists painted walls even more beautiful.
In the past I've always made sure to check out at least one day of Public festival but this year I decided to go one step further and volunteer for a couple of days. As a volunteer you are allocated to a site, some of which had only one artist working there and others had many. My job was to help out the artists by collecting their supplies (paint, water and snacks), providing information to the public about the festival and ensuring that the site is safe for the artist and the public. Most sites had either scaffolding or EWP's (elevated work platforms) to reach the tops of the walls and safety measures had to be employed at all times.
My favourite part of volunteering had to be chatting to the artists and being able to watch their process up close. Over the two days of volunteering I was stationed at four different sites and definitely benefited from mixing with a variety of artists.
Painting on large walls doesn't come without a long list of challenges. In fact two of the artists weren't even painting on walls, instead they were painting on ceilings of which neither had ever attemped before! My first day of volunteering was also the first day of painting for many of the artists and it was interesting to walk around and see how everyone was marking up their design on the wall. I noticed some artists were working off a grid, tracing over carbon paper or just drawing the design freehand with chalk or paint.
All sorts of tools and methods of painting were being used including brushes of all sizes, rollers, tins of paint, stencils, spray cans and more. The scale of the buildings was BIG and as mentioned previously either machinery or scaffolding had to be brought in for the artists to use. That machinery also has to be fully functioning as we found out on the first morning when an EWP wasn't operating correctly and a technician had to be called out. Most of the artists were outside for the whole week and had to deal with the elements - sun, wind and even rain on the last day. I guess most of them are used to this though!
The best part of Public Campus was seeing how it enocourage people to be more involved in art. Even one of the site managers who works in construction and isn't arty at all mentioned how he now has a better appreciation of the artists skills and the time taken to paint such large murals. There was a large team assembled to make Public Campus happen and every single person I met was extremely friendly. I hope I can be involved again next year!