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Melbourne’s Footpath Decorations

I’ve been doing a lot more walking recently, as if I didn’t do enough walking already. When I’ve been walking I’ve been looking down at the footpath decorations. There are so many of them in Melbourne’s footpaths marking trails – Melbourne’s golden mile or something or how far out pavement dinning can extend. But I’ll concentrate on the ones with artist intentions.

In the 1990s the Melbourne City Council (MCC) has installed pavement markers that are part of various walks around the city, for example, “Another View Walking Trail”. Created in 1995 by Ray Thomas (Gunnai tribe Gippsland Victoria), and Megan Evans, in collaboration with Aboriginal researcher/ writer Robert Mate (Woorabinda/ Berigaba tribe Queensland). The trail includes red granite and brass pavement inlays by Ray Thomas and Megan Evans.

Ray Thomas and Megan Evans, “Another View Walking Trail”, 1995

Ray Thomas and Megan Evans, “Another View Walking Trail”, 1995

There is “People’s Path”, 1978-1979, in the Fitzroy Gardens, created by co-ordinating artist, Ian Sprague and participants from the public. The “People’s Path” is made of terra-cotta bricks designed individually by community participants, including myself when I was on a school excursion. Not that this gives me any kind of sentimental attachment to any of the bricks, as I have no memory of the impersonal decorative design that I created that day. Do these community projects, especially in a city like Melbourne with a large population create any sense of identity? As a path, the “People’s Path” goes nowhere, round in a big circle.

There are brass pavement inlays outside of the front of the Melbourne Town Hall and a little bit further up Swanston is Robert Jacks graffiti inspired “Personal Islands”, 1992, in brass and bluestone.

Brass ticket outside Brunswick Town Hall

Brass ticket outside Brunswick Town Hall

Footpath decorations can also be found in the suburbs, there are brass pavement inlays outside the front of the Brunswick Town Hall. The brass inlays survive much better than pavement mosaics, the ones along Brunswick St in Fitzroy have deteriorated; I don’t know how the Hotham Hill Pavement Inlay by Bernice McPherson from1995 has faired (it is located on the corner of Buncle St and Catyre Cr in North Melbourne).

Deteriorated mosaic in Fitzroy

Deteriorated mosaic in Fitzroy

Although Melbourne has many footpath decorations and a great street art scene writing/tagging in wet cement has not become a street art form. I have never seen anything in sidewalk concrete that could be called art, no matter how broadly you want to apply the term. It is the most basic of text and slogans. Scratching into wet cement is a largely an opportunistic act. (The character of Wanda from the Canadian sit-com Corner Gas is a serial wet concrete graffiti writer, see Season 5, Episode 16 “Coming Distractions”.) See also my post Maps &  Trails about trails of street art.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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