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Aiming to make the community a bit brighter for the third year running, the Insight/Out of Sight art competition promotes artwork in the community, by the community. An initiative of Leichhardt Council, it aims to make the suburbs a more beautiful place, turning dull, grey traffic signal boxes into creative pieces of expression.

From a more practical standpoint, meanwhile, the competition also promotes art over graffiti. The winner of the 2009 competition, Joel Tarling, says he was pleasantly surprised and relieved his artwork had not been defaced, and heralds it as a reflection of changing attitudes in the community about the value of art.

For Joel, the competition is a platform for artists to showcase their passion and skills, but also to get the public engaged in the art process, rather than simply observing a completed work in a gallery. It took Joel two days to complete his piece – a picture of a coffee machine on the moon, with a miniature space man looking up at it. As he worked his drawing onto a 3D ‘canvas’, he experienced the momentum of support from the community. “People would walk by and increasingly tell me how much of a good job I was doing… [and that they] liked my work,” Tarling says.

It provided not only an opportunity for him to promote himself and his work, but also to engage the public. In seeing the project through to its final stages, “people saw how long it took to do the artwork … how much effort was required.”

Now, as a judge for this year’s competition, Joel has seen the positive effects of the projects first-hand. He says schoolchildren are excited by the project and the opportunity to contribute to the community, and even adults on a quick sojourn after a busy day at work seem to have a chat about ‘what the artwork really means’ over a cold one.

The project, already a great success in Marrickville Council, brings together a wide range of applicants – professional artists like Tarling, as well as more novice artists like teenagers, mothers painting beautiful floral designs, and even the professional architect, looking to get their creative juices flowing in the form of a side project.

Regardless of the artworks produced, the competition has gained a great deal of support from the community. Interestingly, however, most people are not aware that the project is an initiative of Council and not just a bunch of rogue painters on a mission to transform grey boxes into items of inspiration. Unfortunately, due to RTA regulations, no advertising or signage is permitted on these boxes, and therefore the project (along with the artists) remains largely unknown. This does not matter so much for Joel, who continues to see the benefits of community art as giving people a chance to express themselves whilst bringing a touch of pleasure to the area’s residents and visitors alike.

by Mariana Zafeirakopoulos