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Transcript for Wall to Wall documentary

Jo Herbig:

Wall to Wall Programme is really important, it’s helping kids who've had a bit of a rough go, so far, usually a history of tagging and they've just been taken under Andrew’s wing and mentored and developed into you know, their early talent is being turned into something which is potentially, could be life changing for them. Andrew himself had a bit of a rough start and it was this sort of programme that turned him around and he’s now an international artist travelling the world and living the life he actually wants to.

Andrew Bourke:

Basically this programme is called the Wall to Wall Programme. The idea is that they wanted to get myself involved, I’m a local street artist here in Melbourne, with the idea that I could basically mentor a number of students through three different schools across the Knox region.

Jo Herbig:

There were four workshops in total. The first one was just to introduce Andrew and he talked about his history, how he got to where he is now, his experiences in the street art world. The kids weren’t very engaged to start with and we had to really work at that but by the end, they were completely engaged, loved it and wanted to do it again.

The second workshop was about brainstorming the ideas. Pulling images from the internet, drawing images, just bringing everything together, relating it to the site, taking on what the traders had said and just getting everything out there.

The third workshop was pulling those images together. Looking at the overall design, learning about Photoshop - that was a very exciting workshop.

The fourth workshop was actually just getting the kids out on boards. Getting them to practice with their spray cans, so that they would be ready when we actually went out to the wall for the week and completed the work there.

Andrew Bourke:

It’s a really, really, simple thing to do and it’s just a matter of just presenting yourself and like I said, having some artwork to show them. Sometimes you've got to go through the channels because you might walk in approach someone, it’s no different to actually handing in your resume for a job and its confidence and so through this programme, we basically give you guys first-hand experience of being there with me to do that.

We’re not just giving the students boards and saying “go for it” and a lot of the workshops I've ran in the past have just been a means more or less, to get some of these kids of the street and teach them a few skills and you know, just getting them to just generally engage.

Whereas this one has been thorough in the sense that they've had to come down and they've had to meet the retailers and try and negotiate a concept, based on the wishes of other people, not just what they want to do and find a happy medium. Working out what’s going to be best to see on the wall, to find all the reference material. It’s been really, really involved.

The theme has to be based on the theatre, so all the images are relevant. You've got both this image at the front here and down the back and we’ll walk down in a second and have a look from old classic poster images, based on the theatre. The magic book here, you know, theatre is obviously relevant to magic of stage production, so you know, an open book tells many stories. The Phantom of the Opera, a classic, probably 50’s poster.

Jess Cowling:

Well I was a bit nervous about it at the start because like I was worried that it was going to just look like a two year old did it because like none of us knew how to use spray cans properly. Like, I wasn’t nervous, I was excited but just worried that I wasn’t going to do it properly, I was worried that I was going to make it look bad.

Hailey Close:

Most of us have not worked together in a group activity in creating a mural or anything like that, like being creative, before. It’s not just about like the painting and everything, like everyone gets to know each other more and like maybe with people that are more quieter than others, they like come out and you get to know them and everything.

Alanna Smith:

I felt like I wanted it to go for another week because you know, you got out of school and also it was fun, you got to do stuff and you got to learn how to spray-paint. I just like art, so I’ll do anything, especially when it comes to painting. I like how the colours kind of like mix. It was fun. It was like - we were like - I reckon we got closer, it wasn’t tension or anything. Like you’d expect the first day you get there, oh I'm so nervous, there’s going to be tension but it wasn’t. It was like you got there and it was like we were already friends, everybody already knew each other and we were all friends already. I reckon some people thought at the start that it would just cause trouble and bring on more people to tag stuff and then as it started going on, people looked at it and they were like, oh hang on, this isn’t actual graffiti of what we’re thinking, this is like a piece of art or work of art.

Jo Herbig:

We’re at Fairhills High School, working with the year 10 kids, on the Wall to Wall Project. Andrew Burke, the professional artist who works around the world, is here working with the kids. Today, he’s teaching them how to spray-paint and this is in preparation for them all working down at the wall at Mountain Gate Shopping Centre.

So, you know, he’s such a nice guy and great to talk to, the kids find it easy to talk to him. For someone who’s done some incredible things in his life with his art, met some amazing people and worked with some incredible people, he’s quite down to earth and he’s managed to stay that way despite exposure to such fame and fortune.

There’s certainly lots of other programmes similar to this that have worked really, really well and been successful in preventing tagging and graffiti and increasing feelings of community safety.

So, we’re at Chosen Bean Café, ready to present the concept drawing to the Mountain Gate Traders Association. Andrew and I are here with Beau, one of the students who have put together the concept.

Andrew Bourke:

That’s it, so we’re in the final throws, basically, based on all the students, this is the concept we've come up with so we’re pretty wrapt, at least I'm pretty wrapt anyway and the kids all gave it – the young people all gave it the approval.

Jo Herbig:

Stakeholders involved at each site were the Mountain Gate Traders Association, 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully and the IGA at the Alchester Village in Boronia. The traders formed a really important part of this project and it was very important to involve them in regards to affecting ownership in this area and what you’re seeing now is footage of the Mountain Gate Traders Association looking at the concept design that was put together by Andrew and the students. It was an active meeting, lots of things were said, overall the design was liked by everybody. There was a few things we took away from that, which we altered and it became part of the final work.

Andrew Bourke:

We've gone with a nature theme for this wall, I mean it’s relevant because of the setting, the backdrop of the trees, sorry, in the foreground. It’s nice to kind of look through that and then it almost appears that you can continue looking through that down the road that leads you off towards Melbourne city, which is pretty much what you get when you jump on the old highway back to Melbourne. So we wanted to reflect that, reflect the area, it’s such a beautiful bushy suburb, leading in towards the Dandenongs and because of that, you have this element of nature. A lot of the students decided they wanted to see a lot of the native birdlife in there, so we've got a king parrot up here, we've got a cockatoo down here, further past Melbourne city, a cheeky galah and he’s sitting on top of the television. The TV, well you know, students love to watch television, we thought we’d put it in there because there’s many different takes on it you know. It could be considered like discarded trash alongside the road, an unfortunate part of society. It’s obviously, the aim behind these murals that we've done for the Wall to Wall workshop, is not only to beautify the area but we’re really hoping that you know, other local teenagers, you know, some of the other kids in the area that are probably into the vandalism side of graffiti, can step back and take a look at this and have a think about what maybe they could possibly do if they took an extra couple of minutes to put their mind to a concept and just go about finding some legal space to paint.

Jane Kuchins:

It came about because I work in the Place Programme Team and one of the places that we were working in is Mountain Gate Shopping Centre because it’s quite a nice local shopping area that people are really proud of and the council has committed some funds to develop it, to give it a bit of an upgrade. So we've been out for the last year or so, talking to the traders, talking to the customers, finding out what they’d like done with it and how we can improve it for them because they just like it, they prefer it to going to any of the big shopping areas. So when Jo approached me because she had the idea of creating a mural, it seemed to work in really well because we were at the point where we were trying to give Mountain Gate Shopping Centre a bit of a lift and one of the areas is the wall space and having a mural. Especially the mural, as it turned out, it’s so much better than I could have ever imagined plus I like the idea of the concept of it, where you’re actually mentoring young people and they’re involved in the project. So when Jo mentioned it to me, I was quite supportive of it, she put in the application, was able to get the funding from the federal department and then it was a matter of, once we got the funding, it was just working with Jo, then she worked with the owners and we worked with the traders association, so that they had a lot of involvement. They are really thrilled because it’s actually something tangible that’s happening and we’re going to be starting the major works in the next month, so another tangible thing but it really works out well because it’s all linked in together and I just think it’s a fantastic project.

The business owners are thrilled with it, the ones that haven’t seen it, we've been saying “go up and have a look at it, at the different end” but the ones that have been seeing it, it’s like so much better than they even imagined. I think they’re probably sceptical and especially when you kind of come and you don’t quite know what the quality is and even though they were involved, the business owners, through the traders association in each of the projects with designing the theme, what was going to be some of the key elements and for Mountain Gate it was the nature and they liked the idea of having something quirky with the TV being there. Alchester Village, it was linking it into the music and The Basin Music Festival and so, they really liked the idea but until you see the final project, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be but I think now they are seeing the final project, they’re really thrilled with it.

Andrew Bourke:

Right now, Melbourne’s been fantastic, for the better part of the last maybe four or five years, there is increasing opportunity. A lot of the councils around Melbourne are really getting on board and trying to come up with these different types of initiatives. It may not be exactly the same structure that has been applied by Knox but you know, workshops and mentoring programmes – I've run quite a few over the last number of years with some close friends of mine and I hear of other people doing it as well. Look, I think that’s a step in the right direction. I will say that it’s a credit to Knox that they've come up with the mentoring, or a workshop programme, that’s been quite intensive. I don’t think I've ever run one this intensive before where it’s gone for quite a long duration of time and we've really started out from getting the students to develop their concepts, you know, really think about what it is that they want to say through their painting, to be out on site and negotiate that concept with the retailers, through to learning a little bit about Photoshop and how I go about collaging a concept together and then taking it to the street. Going out and actually taking everything that they've learned in the class and applying that onto the wall.

Stephen Koster:

I suppose I'm directly affected, my sign has been graffiti'd quite a few years ago and tagged by a couple of graffiti artists and the cost for that, to repair the sign was quite exorbitant and then, it just makes everything look untidy and unprofessional. You know, a lot of people work hard in their businesses and the community, to keep their community looking great and vibrant, sometimes, graffiti can really pull that down.

Having Andrew come and share his talents with the design and working with our committee on the Mountain Gate Traders Committee and also with the school and the kids. I think Jo Harding’s energy, from the council, is phenomenal, to get it all sort of together and I think anything contributes to that and the kids to take ownership of it and I'm sure there’s actually a couple of graffiti artists here amongst the kids that are doing it and they’ll get to see – I mentioned, myself, to them, talk about graffiti and it’s a great experience to be able to do it legitimately.

Well it’s always easy to get a talented artist to come and paint some mural but what does it mean? No one owns it. You get the young people and disadvantaged people and you bring them up and it’s only in the doing and the experience of sharing something together with another person and it develops whole new possibilities I believe.

Andrew Bourke:

When I was younger, my generation seemed a lot different to the one of today. We had the utmost respect for any generations above us and their work. If it was the peers that we aspired to be and looked up to, we didn't go anywhere near their work, like, it was just absolutely forbidden. It was an unwritten law that you just did not go over, or touch, anyone else’s work and for me and many others that I grew up with, that went beyond just the realm of graffiti and that was just respecting artwork in general. Like, why go and deface a beautiful artwork? I guess because I've always put a lot of energy and invested time into my art, maybe I always thought, even since I was a young age, I would hate it if someone did that to me. So, I've always had that element of respect and I've always tried to push that, whether it be through painting with friends, meeting people over the years, running workshops, you know. It’s just not on. So, my generation, we just weren't about that.

You have so much influence on social media, graffiti has become segregated. People have different takes on what graffiti is now. You know, you have people that want to go out and do these large-scale public artworks, you have people that just kind of want to develop their graffiti style and that will be their large-scale pieces and then you have others that simply, they just want to cause damage and it’s about how much they can get up. Because there’s so many people now on the scene in Melbourne especially, it’s such a big thriving scene and there are so many amazing artists, it’s – you can’t have one without the other. It’s the unfortunate nature of anything that comes from the streets and it will always be that way. You know, it’s a balancing act, you can’t just take away the kids and those that want to go out and do the tagging, it’s just never going to be a perfect world, you know. What we can do, is try and curb the enthusiasm by doing more projects like this and encouraging those that maybe just haven’t thought a little bit outside the box, “hey maybe I could give that a go and see if that’s for me” because I do think it’s pretty amazing. Maybe if there was more programmes run by councils, like this and it was more accessible, there was more legal spaces for kids to paint, there would be less active vandalism. I think that’s a big thing. We never had anywhere legal to paint, you know, I spent - I put a portfolio together and I spent weeks and weeks, months and months on end, going around door knocking, getting knocked back time and time again. After some time, over a few years, I ended up having a few walls and we’d go and paint these walls consistently and that’s how I learned to paint. I think that if there was more opportunity for kids these days that are getting into it, to say “well hang on, maybe I don’t have to sneak out at night and go down the railway corridor or down this alleyway or on someone’s front fence because I can go with my mate tomorrow, they told me there’s this workshop on in a park or there’s a legal wall happening. I can go there and I can have a paint and build my skills” and then all of a sudden “oh hey, I can actually do this”. So then your mind switches from all I want to do is do a tag.

Beau Sinclair:

So, the story is what it is, it’s all like nature and stuff all around you and then we put the TV in to kind of like show that you don’t need to be around the TV to sort of have a good time and stuff, yeah. We've sort of included everything by getting a bunch of pictures and chose which ones we liked and which ones we didn't and that’s sort of how everything got to be there. We had Puffing Billy in there originally and we had to get rid of that because one of the people didn't like it and they wanted us to shrink it and it just didn't work, so we just took it out.

Yeah, we’re just working on the mountains at the moment, just filling it in and yeah, I've sort of learned stencilling and fades and that sort of stuff.

I think people sort of have respect for it, more than they would just a plain brick wall so they sort of keep off it I think.

Andrew Bourke:

You know, over the last 20 years, it’s become so much bigger than how I simply go about putting my art onto a wall. I've had to learn the whole business side of everything, I've had to learn about art, I've had to learn about fine art, I've had to learn about many different styles of art because you’re always influenced, you’re always searching for a new inspiration that you can bring back into your own work and your work, as you grow, evolves, as it is with anything. So, it’s constantly a learning curve, you constantly improve yourself, you constantly improve your people skills and therefore, hopefully, I can pass all that on, what I've learned, to these guys, which I think I have. I feel that we've had a pretty good response with all three of the groups. You know, considering at the very beginning, the first early classes, everyone was really in their shells and very quiet and then by the end of it you know, it was just great, I got that response that I was hoping for and all the students have been very thankful and very appreciative. Even the ones that haven’t been that much into art or have never touched a spray can for that matter. I try and teach them little things as well, that whether or not they go on and they use spray cans or they just continue on with art in general, what I teach can be applied to any style of art and that’s very important to be and basically, I'm just making sure that I teach them the most important and invaluable lessons that I learned and were passed down to me when I was their age.

Oh look, it’s been great. It’s been – you never know how these things are going to wind up, you always hope that you might be able to engage with you know, at least a small handful of the students and I think for the most part, like, whether the kids have really been into art or into graffiti or street art or whatever it may be, there’s something that they've all, individually, been able to take away from it. They've been – all three groups have been really lively and just pretty positive kids. I think it’s a good thing for the area and yeah, it’s probably, out of many of the workshops I've ran in the past, I’d say that this one has definitely been one of the most successful in that sense that you couldn't have asked for a better outcome you know? I mean, look at the work they've done. They got to take ownership of their concept and then deliver it onto a full scale in public, which can be a bit daunting, especially when I'm trying to teach them to paint stuff that’s well out of their comfort zone and yet they just took it all in their stride and have done a really good job. So, they all should be proud. Good on them.

Councillor John Mortimore:

Oh look; it was just great seeing them, they were all so positive, you know. It was a great atmosphere, it was well run and they had a sense of ownership at the same time, they accepted the guidance far more readily than they normally would, which is an issue with a lot them, is actually taking advice but here they were taking advice from someone they could relate to as a peer and someone who was, effectively, on their side and it just yeah, the good side of them came out.

Councillor Tony Holland:

Any programme, whether it be art, whether it be sport, any programme that helps get young people off the street is a great thing and as a Knox Councillor and as a part of a council team, I think it is imperative that we support anything that involves youth and anything that involves getting them off the streets. I have seen the end result and the end result is brilliant. Now, what we happen, in my view, what tends to happen, these young people have built this beautiful art piece in Mountain Gate, on private property, which is also great that we've got a private partnership with private owners. What you’ll see there is, that wall was always graffiti'd and as a former trader of Mountain Gate, that wall was always graffiti’d. The owners in the end, just gave up, they got sick and tired of painting over it and what we will see there now is that the code, the code between young people is “we don’t graffiti over other peoples artwork”. So, it beautifies Mountain Gate but it always protects that piece of art.

Well what happens is, I've had a lot to do with graffiti over the years and my experience is that graffiti is a perception of safety and anything we can do to relieve that perception, and it is like painting these walls and getting rid of the graffiti as soon as we see it, helps those people feel safe in their communities.

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