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A Fresh Fleet of First Nations-Designed Art Trams Is Taking to the Streets for Rising Festival

These six art-clad vehicles will zip around the public transport network for the next 12 months, including a reproduction of a 1991 tram design by influential artist Lin Onus.
By Libby Curran
May 24, 2022
By Libby Curran
May 24, 2022

Melburnians might be known for their love of wearing black, but even so you can expect to see plenty of colour on the city streets this winter, thanks to the latest edition of the Melbourne Art Trams project. The installation will see six of the city's working trams transformed into giant, moving artworks, each cloaked in an original design by a First Peoples artist.

The new Art Trams are set to roll out across the public transport network over the next month as part of city-wide arts festival Rising, presented in collaboration with Creative Victoria, PTV and Yarra Trams. Embracing the theme 'Unapologetically Blak', this year's lineup was curated by visual artist — and 2021 Art Trams alum — Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba).

Tiriki Onus and Jarra Karalinar Steel. Captured by James Morgan

First up, you'll spy a historic design by the late artist and activist Lin Onus (Yorta Yorta), which launches this year's program by hitting the network today, May 24. The piece revives Lin's original artwork from the Art Tram he created in 1991, brought back to life for 2022 with the help of his son, artist and performer Tiriki Onus. Hugely influential in the emerging era of our First Nations arts scene, Lin's work is known for its depictions of balanced opposites.

Other artists showcasing their designs as part of the roving exhibition include Louise Moore (Wamba), Patricia Mckean (Gundijtmara/Kirrae Wurrong), Dr Paola Balla (Wemba-Wemba/Gundijtmara), Tegan Murdock (Burapa) and Darcy McConnell, who also creates under the name of Enoki (Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung).

Gliding along Melbourne's tram tracks for the next 12 months, the designs include ​​celebrations of blak love in the context of cultural identity, works inspired by ancestral traditions, and tributes to Elders and the spirit of family connection.

If you find yourself aboard one of the Art Trams, you'll be able to learn more about the artist and their work by scanning a QR code within the vehicle.

The Melbourne Art Trams 2022 will be cruising the public transport network until May 2023. For more details, see the Rising website.

Images: 'Reproduction of Tram No. 829' (1991) by Lin Onus (Yorta Yorta). Captured by James Morgan.

Published on May 24, 2022 by Libby Curran
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