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The ninth annual Art and About festival officially opens tonight in Hyde Park north.

“It brings art and artists and creativity right to the forefront of our city streets and public spaces,” said Art and About Creative Director Gillian Minervine.

She said this would be the best Art and About so far, with the greatest number of artists taking part and the greatest number of art forms on display since the festival began nine years ago.

“What we’re trying to do with it is take art out of galleries and out of the normal venues that you expect to see it in and put it in the public spaces of the City of Sydney,” Ms Minervine said.

The Art and About festival has collaborated with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and other smaller galleries.

As well as established artists like Ken Done and Linda Jackson, Art and About will showcase the work of emerging and mid-career artists.

Sydney Statues will see textile artists and wearable-art artists dress sculptures around the city, such as Queen Victoria and Captain Cook, in new costumes.

Art and About has collaborated with curator John Kaldor on The Banner Gallery this year. Portraits of 100 Sydneysiders will be hung on street banner poles throughout the city.

Sydney Life, one of the main festival projects, which has been part of the festival every year for the last nine, features the work of 22 finalists in a competition, taken from about 600 entries.

The photographs of those 22 finalists are blown up on large-scale canvasses in Hyde Park north.

A piece by photographer Christopher Lawrie, “Mikhail and the Dust Storm,” with the subject superimposed over an image of the dramatic Sydney dust storm of September last year, will be showcased.

Mr Lawrie works at Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre, a specialist government school that caters to newly-arrived migrants and refugees.

The photograph is part of a larger exhibition of portraits of recent migrants who are students at the school.

“We’ve got kids from 30 to 40 different language groups, different countries. I guess the message that I’d like to get across is, although they’re visually exotic to us, when you meet them they’re really pretty much the same,” Mr Lawrie said.

“But, at the same time, I think it’s worth celebrating their exotic appearance.”

Mr Lawrie has superimposed the portraits on images of various locations around Australia, “so the portraits reinforce the landscapes and vice versa.”

Art and About launches tonight in Hyde Park, from 6pm to 9pm.

For a full list of events: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/ArtAndAbout/WhatsOn

by Alex Giblin