I am as much against the wanton destruction of public and private property by graffiti as I am sure you are. Local governments and councils worldwide deal with it every day and we all pay through higher council rates, public transport fares and other taxes to have this vandalism removed.
While much of the graffiti one sees is vulgar, in bad taste or just downright ugly there are some talented graffiti (street) artists out there and councils have taken to actually giving these people grants to promote their work in a responsible manner rather than fining them. This is done in the hope that their skills can be turned from vandalism to public good. Adelaide City Council has reached the conclusion that:
‘Street art adds colour, life and vibrancy to spaces. It gives artists a chance to make important social and environmental statements, or add decorative vitality and humour to dull places.’
I hasten to add that not all street artists start out as petty criminals and one artist I had a chat with (see below) was far from that.
In many places, including Adelaide, business owners engage these artists to actually promote their businesses.
The City Council has set aside this area (‘Free Wall’) under the Morphett St Bridge, right by the City West tram stop, where graffiti/street art is legal and indeed encouraged so, dear reader, grab your can of spray paint and let your creative juices flow here in sleepy old Adelaide. This ‘Free Wall’ replaced one in nearby Topham Mall which was closed due to health and safety issues affecting nearby businesses. I imagine this means that there was inadequate ventilation for paint fumes – something which is not a problem here under the bridge.
While you may not wish to exercise your artistic skills, it is certainly worth stopping by here for a look and the nice thing about the main wall here is that the art thereon is constantly changing – my main picture has a certain Christmassy feel to it – ‘Bad Santa’, indeed. On a second visit to the wall a couple of days later, Bad Santa was gone and replaced with the work pictured below.
This illustrates the transitory nature of the art here (though the man ‘hiding in a concrete jungle’ in picture 2 and a female in the same vein are more permanent and away from the other work – still under the bridge but across the busy road), so the quality of what is on display is bound to vary from time to time.
Pictured above is a street artist at work, a top bloke with whom I had a lovely conversation. When I approached him he was somewhat defensive, quickly assuring me that what he was doing was legal. I imagine these artists are not often complemented by someone of advancing years such as me, so he was genuinely chuffed when he realised I appreciated what he was doing, and praised his talents. He was also very complementary of the City Council for providing access to this wall and felt sure it was a major factor in reducing illegal graffiti in the city, something he too deplored. I expressed surprise at how quickly paintings changed on the wall. He indicated that a piece of work which takes hours to do can be painted over again within hours. When asked if this annoyed or frustrated him, he was very philosophical, shrugged his shoulders and said “No, not at all. I just come back and do another one”.
While there is a concentration of this art style in this area, if you keep your eyes open you will see some great pieces throughout the city area and into suburbia.
If I can’t entice you to stop by to look at the art work in itself, Adelaide’s oldest church (Holy Trinity) is also located by the bridge and if you catch the tram here you have to walk under the bridge to get to the church so, that way, you can satisfy two rather different tastes in one hit!
Address: Around 70 North Terrace
Directions: Under the Morphett St Bridge – Tram to City West stop (free).