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Look Out, Wet Paint!

Street art was born in the 60s as a movement of free creative expression, transforming abandoned and eye-sore walls into epic works of art. Since 2017, Darwin Street Art Festival (DSAF) has seen more than 100 works of art transform our tropical city. Thanks to this year’s festival, we’re set to gain 20 more.

By Tierney White

LAST MONTH, DSAF returned for an eighth year to give Darwin a fresh lick of paint, delivered by local business Proper Creative, funded by the Northern Territory Government and administered by Activate Darwin.

You’ve probably spotted high-vis witches hats dotted around cherry pickers boosting a combo of 30 local and visiting artists sky high over recent weeks, from the city to the ‘burbs. A swag of events has also delightfully rolled out with film screenings, exhibitions, and workshops to make up the 2024 program.

The founding father of DSAF is local artist and Proper Creative boss man David Collins, who says this year’s festival is crafted around community.

“The thinking behind teaming up with other community festivals is that we are all connected. Darwin’s a big and small community at the same time, and when there’s lots going on, the Darwin Street Art Festival isn’t a festival that’s vying for bums on seats – we’re not looking for ticket sales – we’re just looking to bring paint and life to all the areas that don’t have it,” he says.

“Working with other festivals felt like a bit of a no-brainer, we can offer something that complements their festivals and vice versa.”

This year, DSAF has teamed up with BASSINTHEGRASS, Garrmalang Festival and Sugarbag Festival. Not a bad line-up, right there.

Something Collins is proud of is the pathways DSAF creates for local and emerging artists.

“I’m particularly excited this year about the artists that came through the Pop-up wall program in previous festivals, that are now going on to paint their own walls,” he says.

Katie Hagebols – aka Piper Kidd – is one of the artists that has come through the Pop-up wall ranks, and says the opportunity to have her work permanently displayed is humbling.

“To have Collins and the team back local Territory artists is so important, it’s such a nod and ode to the roots of DSAF and the team. I’m just so lucky that that this year they’ve given me a crack to go bigger and better,” she says.

“Starting as a pop-up was so fun. It allowed me to have a play with different styles, motifs, and enabled me to re-imagine what could be in the future on a bigger scale … I’m so chuffed my arts are getting immortalised, and I’m super stoked to be able to share with our Territory community and abroad!”

In addition to the local legends, Collins says there’s a few big names thrown in the mix. And some pretty big walls.

“I can’t pick favourites, but I was really excited about the Fintan Magee mural at the Darwin Entertainment Centre that went up as a collab with Garrmalang Festival, and the George Rose mural at the Argus Apartments.”

Although some of the program has already passed us by, in addition to seeing the last brush strokes applied to the walls, there’s still plenty to get amongst.

Head along to the DSAF Nighttime Hub @ Bustard Town to enjoy great tunes, pizza and bevs. Dip into the sweet melting pot of art, inclusivity and joy at The Sugarbag x DSAF Block Party. Get on the cans – of the spray paint variety! – at the Sugarbag x DSAF Skate & Paint, or listen in to a special artist talk with creatives from Bali’s Tangi Street Art Festival.

The festival goes out with a bang and fun party times at Bustard Town with Tropidelica - The Lounge of Luminescence, as Femme Funkale delivers a dance party to celebrate the way public art lights up our daily lives.

This month, once the final touches are polished, take a colourful tour of Darwin and marvel at the wonder of street art. At the end of the day, Collins reckons it's a winner for everyone.

“It brings art to the street rather than being stuck in a gallery or an institution. And I love galleries and I love collecting art – I’ve got more art than I could possibly hang on the walls around me! – but not everyone is comfortable in those spaces, and it’s good to have art accessible on the street, and also change the way people view the city, you know?”

Take a tour of Darwin Street Art Festival at your leisure, scan the QR codes on hand to learn about the artists and their work, and treat your peepers to 20 of Darwin’s newest, most vibrant residents.

Darwin Street Art Festival

Header: Portrait of Larrakia woman Denise Quall by Irish artist, Aches. Photo: Charlie Bliss
Thumbnail & inset: Charlie Bliss

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