Melbourne's 2021 Art Trams Have Just Started Rolling Around the City

This year's artworks are entirely designed by First Nations artists.
Sarah Ward
Published on May 21, 2021

A big splash of colour has just been added to your daily commute, with six of the city's trams transforming into giant — and literally moving — artworks. Hitting the city's public transport network for the latest edition of Melbourne Art Trams, they're also breaking new ground this year. For the first time, the trams are decked out with designs solely from Victorian First Nations artists.

As initially announced earlier in the year, four of 2021's trams feature art from creatives who identify as Traditional Owners of Victoria, while two trams showcase pieces from First Peoples artists who live in the state. The travelling canvases cover a broad range of themes, including environmental ecologies and caring for Country, journeying and family, and the history and cultural heritage of First Peoples in the state. Each decked-out tram will do the rounds for the next 12 months.

The first art tram to start rolling around Melbourne features work by Aunty Zeta Thomson (Wurundjeri/Yorta Yorta), an Elder, artist, cultural teacher and advocate. Called Mookies around the watering hole, it can be seen from today, Friday, May 21, on the 5, 6, 16, 58 and 72 tram routes — with 'mookie' meaning spirit in Yorta Yorta.

Thomson's design was chosen from more than 60 expressions of interest, alongside pieces by Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Thomas Marks (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai), Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta), Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba) and Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai).

From Monday, May 24, three more art trams will go into circulation, featuring Steel's iilk (eel) on the 48 and 109 routes, Thomas' Djeetgun Dreaming on the 70 and 75 trams, and Patten's March of the Ants on the 58 and 59. Then, come Monday, May 31, Marks' Walking on my Father's Country will hit the 6 and 19 line, and Gilson's Karringalabil Bundjil Murrup, Manna Gum Tree (The Creation Tree of Knowledge) will roll around the 3, 3a, 64 and 67 routes.

If you've noticed that the trams are hitting the tracks earlier than usual, their timing coincides with the new Rising festival — the event that's merging Melbourne International Arts Festival and arts all-nighter White Night, and starts on Wednesday, May 26.

Melbourne Art Trams is a collaboration between Rising, Creative Victoria, Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria, allowing local artists submit their own original tram-inspired designs — and has run as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival in previous years.

The first of Melbourne's 2021 art trams hits the tracks from Friday, May 21, with the rest of the fleet joining them on Monday, May 24 and Monday, May 31. For further details, head to the Rising website.

Images: Aunty Zeta Thomson and her tram design 'Mookies around the watering hole'.

Published on May 21, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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