Newtown’s King Street receives a poster art makeover

Artists are working with retailers, bars and cafe and restaurant owners to reenergise Newtown as it reawakens from the Covid-19 lockdown

The New Views Poster Project is a recent recipient of one of our Covid-19 relief grants. It will see 8 artists create large site-specific posters for the windows of vacant, closed or partially operating businesses on King Street in Newtown.

The project is led by artist and long-term City of Sydney resident Wendy Murray. She hopes the project will give people a new point of interest to enliven the area and help contribute to King Street’s return as the hub of the suburb.

“Even with restrictions lifting, a lot of Newtown’s small bars and cafes can’t provide 4sqm for each patron so they remain closed or are severely limited in their ability to operate,” said Wendy.

“The posters will create ‘new views’ in empty and boarded up windows, share the views of out-of-work artists and generate new community connections.”

Newtown's King Street. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

Art out of adversity

Wendy says this type of artwork is particularly suited to Newtown, which has a rich history with the medium.

“Newtown has always been a really important place for dissemination of information through posters. Particularly that King Street strip. It’s one of the few places in Sydney that you can put posters up in shop windows and other little spots and people will still read them.”

King Street is also home to renowned poster retailer Blue Dog Posters and Prints and near the site of the Tin Sheds Art Collective. From the 1970s, Tin Sheds, just down the road, at from the University of Sydney, was the originator of some of Australia’s most renowned and original political poster art.

Each New Views poster will be handmade using traditional poster making methods – paint, stencils and drawing.

Wendy says many artists have lost access to their studios or can’t afford to rent them, so the project is making use of tiled methods rather than large single posters.

She says this lack of access to workspaces is just one of the profound ways she and her peers have been impacted by the lockdown.

“As an artist and educator, my practice centres on building connections with people, so the impact of Covid-19 on my work has been devastating. Classes, exhibitions and residencies were all cancelled.

“Seeing my colleagues and networks in the creative sector suffer in the same way inspired me to design an innovative way to maintain our arts practice.”

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Shop windows become arts spaces

3 sites on King Street are so far secured for the project. All of them are within businesses that have partial closures in their spaces due to social distancing rules.

A work by comic inspired street artist ZAP will occupy the window of C9 Chocolate & Gelato in central Newtown. “They can’t open their seated area because it’s a skinny narrow space, so they have all these chairs stacked up. We’re using one of their end windows for the posters, and it will partially cover up the area that cannot be used.’’

It will complement a work by graffiti artists Peque and Teazer that has lived on the side of the building for years.

Other works are destined for the windows of affected bars, including the window of well-loved cocktail bar Corridor.

“Corridor’s been fully closed because of the restrictions and the size of the bar. It’s not been worth opening.” An artwork by Jackson Farley will be a lively replacement for a big black curtain that is currently in the window.

Artist Wendy Murray with her artwork 'Gone Bananas'. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

The power of poster art

The New View Project Posters will be installed towards the end of June or in early July. Wendy did a test-run with her multi-panel poster work ‘Gone Bananas’ to give C9 a glimpse of what it could look like. She said it immediately caused a stir.

“People were crossing the road to take photos and get a closer look,” she said. She believes there is a power in public poster art, it allows artists to engage the community in a different way to showing in any other space.

“If you put a poster on the street your audience is going to be vast and diverse. Anyone can see it. Whereas if you put something online, the platform and algorithms control who sees the work.”

Other local artists working on poster works for the project include Tina Havelock Stevens, Toby Zoates, Molly Wagner, Garry Trinh, Joshua Morris, and Sarah Edmondson.

If you have a property on King Street and you’re interested in having a New Views artwork in the window, Wendy asks you to get in touch. Send a direct message to @newviewsposterproject on Instagram.

“We hope this project will show all is not lost and the cultural sector can continue to engage and make art in conversation with those around us. From artists, to local Newtown businesses and cultural hubs like Carriageworks, we all want to emerge from this healthy and strong.”

This project received a Covid-19 relief grant from the City of Sydney’s creative fellowships fund. The fund supports artists to develop works and projects and purchase materials and equipment. Sign up for our grants newsletter and learn about future grant opportunities.

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