You Can Now Get Around Melbourne on 2024's Stunning Fleet of First Peoples-Designed Art Trams

This year's theme is ‘Blak on track', with the late Dr Destiny Deacon among the artists featured across the six trams.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 13, 2024

The next time that you catch a tram in Melbourne, you might be stepping onboard a mobile artwork showcasing designs by First Nations talents. Each year, including as part of the city's winter arts festival RISING since 2021, the Melbourne Art Trams take to the streets. They're an eye-catching way to revamp public transport and a stunning display of art all in one, and they're back for 2024.

Also since 2021, the initiative has focused on First Nations artists, putting their pieces on a massive and widely-seen canvas. Six trams get the works each year, with 2024's talents including Dr Destiny Deacon, Milla Morgan, Kait James, Iluka Sax-Williams, Thomas Day and Ellen José. And while everyone has come up with their own unique works, each piece now doing the rounds responds to the theme 'Blak on track'.

Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba) — an alumni of the 2021 trams — has curated the moving exhibition, with Deacon's (Ku Ku/Erub Mer) contribution particularly meaningful given that the artist passed away in May. In fact, called Arrears Windows, Deacon's work graces the first train on the tracks. Prepare to see digital snaps of residents of Melbourne's public housing from 2009's Gazette series rolling around town.

"It's impossible to overstate the impact that Dr Destiny Deacon has had on art in this country, on a generation of First Nations artists and on me personally. This is why being able to present her work as the first to roll out this year as part of the First Peoples Melbourne Art Trams program is such an immense honour," said Steel.

"Growing up inspired by the incredible artists of the Melbourne Urban Indigenous Art movement, Destiny's raw, tongue-in-cheek style of social commentary has always resonated deeply."

"The title of this years' series Blak on Track would literally not have been possible without her. Her iconic Blak dolls capture the essence of her powerful message and are a perfect tribute to her legacy. Curating this project for my final year and including Destiny's work feels like the culmination of my journey with the Art Trams. I hope it inspires passengers to learn more about her and other brilliant artists who have shaped our culture."

To see Deacon's work, you'll need to catch the 1, 6 and 19 routes. Morgan's (Wiradjuri/Yorta Yorta) I Just Wanted to Say Sorry is also sharing the same journeys, showing Melbourne her exploration on the way that First Nations art can shape perceptions and forge connections.

You'll find Hung Out to Dry by Kait James (Wadawurrung) on routes 3, 64 and 67, as filled with pop-culture nods in a bid to probe colonial narratives and challenge stereotypes. On the 70 and 75 routes, Kulin Woora Liwik — Kulin Sky Ancestors from Iluka Sax-Williams (Taungurung) puts Songlines to the fore — and Yarkeen — Dreams by Thomas Day (Gunditjmara/Yorta Yorta/Wemba Wemba) ponders the link between the physical and spirit realms on the 5, 6, 16, 58 and 72 routes.

Then there's Reach Out and Touch — Distance and Time by Torres Strait Islander artist Ellen José on the 48, 78 and 109 routes, which puts the impact of war at its heart.

Melbourne's 2024 art trams are hitting the tracks from Thursday, June 13. For further details, head to the RISING website.

Images: James Morgan.

Published on June 13, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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