I was looking forward to seeing the infamous street art of Melbourne, but was unprepared for all the various art forms embraced by the city. In addition to the spray painted lanes of the city, there are the gardens, art galleries, and live music throughout the city.
We call them parks, Australians call them gardens and the name is fitting. Parks are a plot of grass in the middle of city concrete, gardens are created by landscape artists incorporating the surrounding buildings and pedestrians into the design.
Staying in Fitzroy, I was flanked by the Carlton Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens. Both equally beautiful in design, they made me forget I was in the fastest growing city in Australia. Walking through the Carlton Gardens with the scent of lavender around you, you’ll pass the Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building. While the Fitzroy Gardens invites you to pick a sunny or shady spot under a tree to take a little nap or read a book.
I must say the Royal Botanic Gardens was beautiful and a quiet respite from the city. Walking trails through eucalyptus trees and the Fern Gully really puts you in another place – a jungle far away. By far, I much preferred Melbourne’s to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
The National Gallery of Victoria exhibits works by renowned Australian artists, original Aboriginal pieces showing the history of Australia’s indigenous people, and international exhibits.
My two favorite exhibits were those of Bruce Armstrong and David Hackney. Armstrong, a native of Australia, sculpts animals out of various types of wood. The pieces ranging in size from a small table top piece to life-size.
David Hackney, an English artist, showed his landscape and portrait work utilizing an iPad and iPhone. He would utilize the iPad to finish his paintings – changing color and composition as needed. The exhibit showcased various print sizes, some spanning all four walls of a gallery room. There were also iPads and video screens showing the creation of the piece in progress. It was quite amazing seeing what an iPad can create.
Melbourne is famous for the murals of its street artists. Hosier and Flinders Lanes are probably the most famous, but I also enjoyed AC/DC Lane and the Aboriginal portrait at the corner of Johnston and Fitzroy.
The city and artists seem to embrace the tourism aspect with street art walking tours. The one night I happened upon Hosier Lane, numerous tourists and locals were walking the street taking pictures, and watching an artist in mid-painting. The guy didn’t seem to notice as if it’s a regular occurrence.
Melbourne prides itself as Australia’s live music capital. This week was Melbourne Music Week (MMW), with events throughout the city. Last night on my way to visit the State Library of Victoria, I happened upon a free concert in the library courtyard with food and a beer garden. There were families, teenagers, hipsters, tourists, and businessmen all in attendance. The exhibit inside the library was the history of independent radio station Triple R. On display were pieces of old radio equipment throughout the station’s existence, videos, and memorabilia.
MMW aside, I also saw baskers at Queen Victoria Market. They weren’t just some kids strumming on a guitar, but legitimate singers. And, there was a mutual respect between the acts. While a duo finished up their set another singer waited patiently to begin, and the guys introduced him after finishing their set. It was just nice to see artists show each other respect.
And each night walking home I got to pop in a pub or stand outside listening to jazz music filter on to Brunswick Street. Honestly if you’re in Fitzroy, you can hear music any night of the week.
With gardens, museums, street art, and music there is something for everyone who appreciates art and finding something beautiful in a concrete canvas.