Street art in May Lane St Peters

This was the Services Committee Meeting. Absent – Clrs Thanos & Wright. The following is how I understood the meeting & any mistakes are mine.

Street art & graffiti in May Lane & surrounding areas St Peters – Background: After 3 community consultations, Council has a 16-point plan to address street art & graffiti in May Lane & surrounding areas. They include cleaning up May Lane West, renaming this section, increasing the number of rubbish bins, increasing lighting & garbage removal, converting May Lane into a shared zone & setting up regular community forums.

A resident spoke for the street art saying she has seen positive aspects & was happy with Council’s process. She said May Lane was already a shared space, but cars regularly drive the wrong way, especially the weekly garbage truck.  She said this was dangerous due to the many pedestrians. She said she had made a documentary on May Lane that is travelling Australia.  The next speaker was from Graphic Art Mount who said the project began in 2005 with young people approaching them to ask if they could paint their walls. They now get applications to paint from overseas.   She said May Lane showcases street artists & provides a platform for current street art practice. She said Bathurst Regional Gallery is taking street art on a 2-year national tour. She said she was concerned that Council wanted to clean up May Lane East as the business was having art tours to look at the walls & that a lot of the street artists were becoming well known. She also said the business had invested $35,000 per year into the project.

The next speaker spoke for the street art & said he was a senior lecturer on Urban Geography at Sydney University who researches graffiti management policy around the world. He commended Council on their process saying that graffiti management is usually based on prejudice, rather than evidence & that Marrickville Council was a role model for other councils.  He said street art contributes to the community & generates international tourism. He said there would be a “massive amount of goodwill” from the street artists if they were included in any consultation & that senior street artists teach ethics to new younger artists. He said cleaning the walls could send a mixed message that street artists are not welcome.

2 residents spoke against the street art. The first said she supported street art & had seen it get kids off the streets & that the behaviour of the street artists & not the art was the issue for her. She said she gets a lot of aggression directed toward her & that she had recently seen a woman with kids in the car have the 4 doors kicked in by pedestrians in May Lane. She said the lane was an “accident waiting to happen” with photographers blocking the lane, pedestrians & traffic. She said May Lane is now a street art lane & Council won’t be able to recover it.  She said Council should look after May Lane instead of the art shop paying $35,000 a year & that Council should provide more areas for street art. She said Council hadn’t thought May Lane through, had allowed it to go on for 6 years & sponsors websites that show tags. She said the shop 567 King Street that sells spray paint & ‘tag ‘n run’ texta’s should come under control.

May Lane St Peters

The next resident said she was also a senior lecturer at Sydney University. She said Council hadn’t addressed the demarcation between residents & artists & reminded that the work was done on the back of residential properties.  She said a lot of people (20-50 at a time) using spray cans causes a fine drift of paint and fumes & residents were complaining of asthma & headaches. The dumping of rubbish, alcohol use & aggression towards residents were also an issue. She said most people think it is legal to graffiti walls & the street artists were encroaching on the residents clean air & the kind of place they live.  She said she has a Phd in Public Health & just because we can’t find evidence that breathing spray paint causes harm, doesn’t mean it doesn’t. She said she would like to see May Lane West cleaned & renamed Harriet Lane so that the painting becomes concentrated in May Lane East. She also said Councillors encouraging street art can encourage ‘vandalism tourism.’

May Lane St Peters

Clr O’Sullivan said that local police say boys from North Shore private schools are coming to St Peters to engage in illegal activity that they wouldn’t do in their own area. Council is trying to reconcile gallery & street artists & the distress of residents by the success of this gallery.  She said residents feel unsafe at time after dark with people doing something at their back gate. She said this is not the gallery’s project & that Marrickville Council set it up & manages it. She put up a motion that Council audit the websites they sponsor to ensure they don’t recommend tagging, that during the clean up the walls on May Lane West are not erased & that the cleanup include Appleby Street.

Clr Peters asked whether some artistic lighting could be used instead of ordinary lighting. Staff said community safety was the issue, but they would look at lighting options as part of the environmental assessment.   Clr Hanna said he was happy Council was looking into this problem & wanted the cleanup to be done as soon as possible, not wait until next year.

Clr Phillips put up an amendment regarding renaming May Lane West, Harriet Lane to look at using an Aboriginal name instead & wanted consultation with the Aboriginal community about choosing a name.  Staff said Harriet was the name of one of the daughters of the owner of the brick pits & that the names of other daughters have been used. He said consultation with the Aboriginal community has shown a spilt as to whether Cadigal names can be used.   Clr Phillips said he thought the Aboriginal Consultative Committee should decide whether they have a suitable name.

Clr Olive supported using an Aboriginal name, but said it had been 2 years & no names had been put forward yet & Council needed to get this process through.  He said a key part of the strategy was changing the name of May Lane West immediately.  Clr Byrne supported motion & said Council needs a long-term strategy with forums & a working party with residents involved.  Clr Hanna said he was against the amendment because it would delay the process, not because it would be an Aboriginal name.

Clr Peters said that the Aboriginal Consultative Committee meets this December & should be given the opportunity.  Clr O’Sullivan said she opposed the amendment even though she was a member of the Aboriginal Consultative Committee saying it was unfair to give them an urgent matter at their AGM. Clr Kontellis supported the motion saying the Aboriginal Consultative Committee can come up with a name & if they don’t, Council can revert back to Harriet.  Amendment to rename – Carried. (I only managed to get the following names) For: Clrs Kontellis, Phillips, Byrne & Peters. Against: Clrs Olive, O’Sullivan & Hanna. Clr Kontellis using her casting vote. I don’t know which way Clrs Iskandar & Tsardoulias voted.  Clr O’Sullivan’s motion was carried unanimously.

Here ends the Report for this week.

A selection of street art in May Lane St Peters