Opinion

Colour our city: Ipswich to become a gallery of artwork

Art enthusiast Gilbert Burgh says traffic signal boxes provide the perfect canvas for artists to express their creative talent and turn the city into a brighter place.
Art enthusiast Gilbert Burgh says traffic signal boxes provide the perfect canvas for artists to express their creative talent and turn the city into a brighter place. Rob Williams

 

BRIGHT IDEA: Gil Burgh thinks signal boxes like this would be better used as a canvas for local artists to colour the city.
BRIGHT IDEA: Gil Burgh thinks signal boxes like this would be better used as a canvas for local artists to colour the city. Rob Williams

IN A grey world, Gilbert Burgh is always keen to add a little touch of colour.

As an art enthusiast, his mission for the past few years has been to enhance and beautify Ipswich's inner city landscape.

And all he says it will take is a bit of paint and a few brushstrokes.

Mr Burgh said his plan was to revitalise the city with sanctioned artwork created in public locations.

He said many of Ipswich's colourless surroundings were in need of some artistic attention.

Starting small, Mr Burgh used the region's traffic signal boxes as an example.

You might have noticed the bland, metal pieces of urban infrastructure when passing through a set of traffic lights.

Mr Burgh said the boxes provided the perfect canvas for artists to express their creative talent and turn the city into a brighter place.

The idea has already been implemented in Brisbane City when it was learned that traffic signal boxes were the most graffitied council asset.

The project, called Artforce, was launched in 1999 as an effort to turn a negative into a positive. It has since seen hundreds of residents with a passion for painting take part.

There are currently more than 900 traffic signal boxes that make up Brisbane's 'drive-through gallery', enhancing traffic zones and providing splashes of public art across the city.

Mr Burgh said he would be keen to see the same project replicated across Ipswich.

"By colouring the city through an initiative like this, we're aesthetically bringing out the culture in a community.

"It also opens up an opportunity for local artists to show that they can contribute to a city's appeal."

To make the traffic signal project work, Mr Burgh said a committee of local artists and community members could be appointed to review and select design submissions.

He said he'd like to see a diversity of art created by different people with each traffic box design ideally relating to its surroundings.

If the project was implemented and proved successful, Mr Burgh said it might encourage the community to endorse other urban art projects in Ipswich.

He said there were plenty of bland public spaces that could be used by artists to help beautify the city, give it a special feel and establish it as a nest of urban creativity.

"We have a lot of potential places such as under bridges, grey pillars and colourless buildings," he said. "Why anyone would think people preferred grey, structural objects is beyond me.

"Look at the clothes we wear; not many of us want to dress ourselves down to look grey and fade into the background.

"No, we wear items with splashes of colour on them."

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As project director of the former Swich Contemporary Art Space, Mr Burgh has been advocating such a change for years.

He said 'The Swich' was established with the intention of changing people's perception of contemporary art and transforming spaces.

The concept of a 'contemporary art space' is not bound by the notion of location and not restricted only to art-dedicated spaced such as museums, galleries and studios, according to Mr Burgh.

"In Toowoomba for example, earlier this year the council held its inaugural 'First Coat' street art festival," he said.

The event was designed to help eliminate illegal graffiti by having 27 prominent urban artists - some from overseas - paint murals on CBD laneways throughout the Garden City.

"It wasn't the traditional way to battle graffiti, which is white-washing, and it was very successful because it allowed people to see the process of street art," Mr Burgh said.

He said the hurdle with getting the community to support street art was that a lot of people considered it an illegal act.

"The distinction between street art and what is often referred to as graffiti vandalism sometimes gets conflated," he said. "Which is a problem because it makes people think that all graffiti is bad as it encourages the kind of behaviour we don't want.

"It also comes with the assumption that everyone invited to do street art was previously a criminal.

"But when you see projects like the one in Toowoomba, you see that these are the kind of people we are encouraging to enhance our city."

Topics:  qt big read



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