Resident of Hamilton South, Jan Chamberlain, invited UP&UP to help steer a community project aimed at revamping an existing mural on the corner of Fowler and Ogden Street over 4 weeks of March. The community members of Hamilton South are not new to the world of murals; in 2017 and again in 2019 we collaborated with the community to develop murals that reflected the community’s values at the time. Since then, we have stayed in touch with the community and have been involved in arts projects and events, working to build long-lasting relationships with residents, shop owners and tenants.
So naturally, we were excited to be invited back again to help co-create a mural with the residents that both honored the community’s history whilst simultaneously creating new shared memories and a collective identity.
As the 2022 City of Newcastle’s Senior of the Year, Jan was the backbone to the fruition of this project. Not only did she write and became a successful recipient of the City of Newcastle’s Rapid Response Grant scheme to fund the project, but her ongoing efforts and commitment into the community was instrumental into the success and community participation of this project. Over the 4 weeks of March and with the support and elbow grease of the local community, shop owners and tenants, we were able to collaboratively co-design a mural that reflects the spirit and strength of the Hamilton South community.
To help with our engagement process in the design of the mural, we hosted several art-based workshops for the community to encourage residents to share stories, memories and symbols that they held about the area. We brought out our trusty posca pens, butchers paper and second-hand vinyl records to facilitate workshops that revealed how they feel emotionally connected to their community and the area’s history.
The mural’s intention was to send powerful social messages to the world about the strength and spirit of Hamilton South. After weeks of engagement with the local community, it came as no surprise to agree on the words ‘community strong’ sprawled across the mural. Residents involved in the mural engagement activities proudly added their own unique pieces of history and spirit of the community to the design. Some young people took a particular liking to native flora of the area, retracing some of their favorite flowers and bushes onto the butchers paper.
Excitingly, the conversations shared between residents during our posca pens workshop involved discussing the cultural diversity of Hamilton South, and felt that it was important to represent this in a unique and engaging way. As such, they decided that by translating the word “hello” into all the different languages of Hamilton South residents (and wider Newcastle!) and sprawling the words across the mural, viewers would be invited to engage with the cultures and languages that exist within the area.
Projects like the Hamilton South Community Project allows community members to invigorate their surroundings with their expressions of self-identity. There is no doubt that the residents of Hamilton South care about their community, but our aim with this project was to show the world how they are emotionally connected to their community. Like all neighbourhoods, Hamilton South is first and foremost a place for people – something the mural emphasizes.
Our response-ability mural engagement program facilitates community members to actively participate in shaping their community, and can reinforce a sense of identity within place. The participatory and collaborative nature of our mural programs help to enhance social cohesion, community spirit and deepened understandings between residents. It is a way of activating agency by allowing people to learn from, with and as each other and to visually share these understandings with the world.