Students take art to the street

QCA students at the finished mural on Brunswick Street

The Queensland College of Art has partnered with Queensland Rail to transfer student artwork from the classroom to the street as part of a new fine art elective.

Led by Simon Degroot, the first cohort of the elective — known as ‘The Street’ — has recently transformed 34 metres of wall in Brunswick Street into contemporary street art in conjunction with Queensland Rail’s Positive pARTnerships community art program.

In an intensive three week course, the group — comprising painters, animators, sculptors and mature age students — was encouraged to consider all perspectives of street art before conceiving and implementing their own designs.

It was an experience that 55-year-old mother of two Conchita Hurst admits she had no idea she was getting herself into.

“I thought I would be learning how to capture the vibe of the street and use that energy in paintings,” she laughs.

“I was completely unaware and ignorant of the exciting world of street art.

“But now I will be walking around with my eyes open, looking for new platforms to bring art out into the streets to become part of the world at large,” she says.

“Harmonise” from student animator Vicky Djurovic was the mural design chosen for the team to recreate on Brunswick Street.
“Harmonise” from student animator Vicky Djurovic was the mural design chosen for the team to recreate on Brunswick Street.

Conchita says while she has always been creative in some shape or form, it was only recently that she began to hone in on her passion, applying to study fine art at the QCA in 2014 while continuing her part-time work as a Spanish interpreter.

“It wasn’t that long ago that I just couldn’t have imagined any of this!” she says.

“I admit that I was naïve in my expectations of university study, I had imagined simply being taught techniques, but it is so much more than that.

“Through the maze of hard work, art making, assignments and exams, there is a real sense of camaraderie that builds up with fellow (often much younger) peers/artists.”

“This street art experience was just the icing on the cake!”

“It has really changed my perspective of what constitutes contemporary art,” she says.

Out of the classroom and on to the streets…

Leading the class, Simon says the goal of The Street is to broaden art making experiences by encouraging team work and community engagement.

“Taking students out of the studio to consider the urban environment can lead to a truly collaborative effort with a real outcome,” he explains.

Simon himself is no stranger to the world of street art, with his work adorning walls and blank spaces big and small throughout Brisbane.

This latest mural is the second time he has collaborated with Queensland Rail Community Artist Dan Brock, after the two worked closely together on the Pillars Street Art Gallery at South Bank for the G20 Cultural Celebrations.

Simon’s work as part of The Pillars Project from the G20 Cultural Celebrations Brisbane
Simon’s work as part of The Pillars Project from the G20 Cultural Celebrations Brisbane

Dan said through such partnerships Queensland Rail aimed to instil community ownership and pride in public infrastructure.

“Street and public art is increasingly gaining momentum as a new force in contemporary art, and through Queensland Rail’s Positive pARTnerships program we aim to provide students and community groups with a hands-on understanding of public art process and implementation,” Dan said.

“I was thrilled to have collaborated directly with students from QCA on this project, which has resulted in beautiful artwork for the local community and the thousands of customers who pass through Fortitude Valley station daily to enjoy.”

Simon agrees, mentioning there is increasing interest in public art within Australia.

“As student interest in public and street art increases, it is important to meet this interest with an informed dialogue in order to explore this rich history and its conceptual frameworks,” he explains.

Following the success of the summer intensive program, the QCA now has plans to offer The Street elective annually.