AT the height of the marriage equality debate, someone sprayed a large “Vote No” on the Bendigo Skate Park.
It did not go unnoticed by Reece Hendy, and it was quickly sprayed over and altered by other street artists.
“That’s the thing, street art is self-regulated,” he said.
“If someone does something inappropriate, or something offensive, or something other people don’t like, then that’ll get painted over with something else.”
But this self-regulation was not enough for the City of Greater Bendigo.
From 2016 the Bendigo Skate Park, on McIvor Road, was used as a trial site to allow street artists to express themselves.
Then, one day at the end of last year, the entire skate park was painted grey by the council. When a new piece appeared, within a few days it would be painted over grey again.
The trial was definitely over.
Mr Hendy, who helped to organise the trial, said it was cancelled without any consultation and street artists were not able to provide their own feedback and ideas.
“There’s not much of a graffiti ‘community’ in Bendigo because there’s no place to build a community,” he said.
“Maybe we could have had paint workshops at the Bendigo Skate Park to raise awareness about doing it more appropriately and we could actually draw people in.
“That never happened though. It just got dropped all of a sudden and we were told after the fact.”
There are now no legal places for street artists to carry out their craft.
The City of Greater Bendigo has provided spaces like Pennyweight Walk, Chancery Lane and “Project Underpass” on the creek trails for professional artists to complete works.
But one Bendigo street artist, who wished to remain anonymous, said this sanctioned artwork using paint pots and brushes excluded local street artists and the works were not allowed to be touched by others.
He said the cancellation of the Bendigo Skate Park trial showed the council had a misunderstanding about street art.
“What would have had to have happened for it have been judged a success? For artists to have painted murals using pots and paint and bushes, which then sat untouched for months?” he said.
“That isn’t how graffiti works.
“It’s temporary, ephemeral nature is partly what makes it appealing to me. I don’t expect or particularly want my stuff to sit there untouched forever.
“I take a picture when I’m finished and don’t care if I never see it again. I guess that highlights the different mindsets involved here.”
There are also unwritten rules in street art: don’t tag schools, private property or businesses.
Despite it now being banned everywhere in Bendigo, street art – or graffiti – still exists. It is appearing more and more on the Bendigo Creek trail, on train overpasses and on public walls around the city.
With the City of Greater Bendigo set to build three new skate parks in the coming years – at Kangaroo Flat, Ewing Park and Epsom – street artists believed there could be an opportunity to re-engage with the council.
The street artist said even just having an upright board at the new skate parks available to be tagged could be a good starting point.
“It would be great if the new skate parks could have a specific wall space put aside for legal graffiti,” he said.
“That Project Underpass is all well and good, but it’s a different thing to having a place where artists are free to paint what they want, when they want.
“Some of the work might not be the best, but that’s part of the graffiti thing – the freedom to do what you want and express yourself without being told what to do.
“For me, it’s something I can own as ‘mine’.”
No plans for street art trials at new skate parks in Bendigo
The City of Greater Bendigo says there are no plans to make three new skate parks in the city available for legal street art following the “failure” of the trial at the McIvor Road skate park.
Acting director health and wellbeing Steven Abbott said the trial was “not considered successful” because artwork was “constantly tagged and painted over with illegal and sometimes offensive graffiti”.
“A decision by several city departments was to discontinue using the site for legal graffiti,” he said.
“The city manages graffiti in a range of ways including regularly removing graffiti and graffiti prevention programs.
“The city is committed to supporting and facilitating a broad range of public art projects to bring colour and vibrancy to our streets and public spaces.”
Mr Abbott said some businesses in the Bendigo CBD made walls available for street artists, and he encouraged more to do so.
The new skate parks are proposed for Kangaroo Flat, Epsom and Ewing Park.