THROWING SHAPES: Installation of Harley Graham and Max Beaur's sky sculpture at Elysium Creative Road project in Lateen Road Byron Bay. The installation was done Andrew Swain seen here with curator Rebecca Townsend.
THROWING SHAPES: Installation of Harley Graham and Max Beaur's sky sculpture at Elysium Creative Road project in Lateen Road Byron Bay. The installation was done Andrew Swain seen here with curator Rebecca Townsend. Christian Morrow

COMMENT: Art transforms Byron's alleys

FROM the Byron Bay town master plan came a strong call to activate, beautify and revitalise our streets and neglected spaces. Council heard this call and established the innovative Placemaking Seed Fund to support creatives who wished to answer this call and generate partnerships beyond council.

Twenty-eight submissions were received and the evaluation panel recommended five projects to start the program. The evaluation panel was an independent panel of nine and consisted of one council staff member, one councillor (not me) and local business and community leaders.

The biggest project was Elysium - a fully curated public art transformation project of Lateen Lane. It moved away from the traditional street art laneway of a collection of different works and aimed to provide locals and visitors with something different - an immersive contemporary art experience.

The project involved artwork installations by five Byron Shire artists - Christina Waterson, Kellie O'Dempsey, Max Beaur, Harley Graham and Colleen DaRosa. They were joined by Sydney artists Andrew Dennis, Sonia van de Haar and Berlin artist Danny Gretscher. Bringing local, national and international artist was the first of the added value of this project.

Elysium had been planned for over 12 months and was delivered by local art design professionals Jane Fullerton and Rebecca Townsend.

Both have volunteered hundreds of hours of their time to this large-scale project and, alongside $20,000 from council, raised more than $80,00 through local business and philanthropists to cover supplier and material costs.

Major supporters of the project include Byron Shire Council, Base Backpackers, Splendour in the Grass, Harley Graham Architects and Stone & Wood Brewing Co. Numerous other local businesses and individuals were also behind the project, providing financial and in-kind support.

The project also generated economic benefits for the area - more than $60,000 was paid to local suppliers and an estimated $100,000 of in-kind support was donated to the project by curators, project managers, engineers, builders, electricians and artist volunteers. There was $15,000 paid to eight visual artists, five of who were local.

Acclaimed Australian street art filmmaker Selina Miles documented the project installation process, with local musicians Tora providing the soundtrack.

Elysium incorporated mentorship, with SCU visual art students and three emerging artists who are part of the SHIFT project, which assists local women at risk of homelessness. They worked alongside artists in the delivery of artworks to gain valuable skills and professional experience.

This is just the start, as more building owners in this lane come on board, the space will further develop and who knows how locals will begin to interact with the newly invigorated space.

This is the magic of placemaking - locals adopting, adapting and owning spaces previously just areas to get from A to B. All this happens while still keeping it as a functional service and delivery lane.

Popped has also just been launched. A project designed to transform surf alley into a beautiful thoroughfare lane with help from emerging artists. There will be art, food, lights and greenery. And the surf hall of fame will be featured.

It too is bold and the result of creative professionals (Abbie Gibson and Monique Hartmann) bringing local artists, community groups and businesses together for a wonderful gift to us.

Placemaking incorporates street art at its finest.

It's about opening dynamic possibilities. Elysium and Popped do it in true Byron style and this is why both projects are so important to Byron Bay.

Their visions are bold, they incorporate experienced professional creative management, cutting edge contemporary art, a commitment to community service, mentoring to help locals and those in need, gaining support from supporters and, hopefully, inspiring others to work up project ideas for even more street activation.

In true Byron style these projects start discussions, get opinions flying and make us think - what else can we do to those walls and under-utilised spaces?

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