If you’ve been driving down Beaufort Street or picked up a local newspaper you can’t have missed the Town of Vincent’s newest art installation – Tandem.

Art versus infrastructure
It was interesting to me that within hours of Tandem hitting the street, the debate started about whether $40,000 on a piece of public art was a useful way to spend local rate payers money or if it should be put towards fixing roads instead.

Roads don’t make people happy

Now I’m no expert on art, architecture, culture or local town planning, but I do have an opinion on the role of public art based on my lived experience – public art helps to make people feel good. And for this reason alone I think it’s a terrific investment. Seeing people interact with Tandem, stopping to take photos, dress it (like Eliza on Mounts Bay Road) and just smile when they see it, to me, justifies the expenditure on public art and the contribution it makes to enlivening our communities. Roads are important – but for what reason does expenditure on art have to be an either or question? Art or roads? Doesn’t beauty, whimsy, fantasy and fun have an important place in our built environment too?

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Public art becomes more than what it is
What I also love about public art in the age of social media, is the way that local installations are embedding themselves into the community and conversations – did you know that many of Perth’s more recent public art installations, like the “Pineapple” and “Cactus” in Perth, and even the Ice Cream Bin in Vic Park, have twitter accounts? (btw – so does Tandem – @BeaufortStBike). Over time, these works are being anthropomorphised into local citizens with their own quirks and personalities – it’s art taking on life and becoming integrated into our cultural experience.

Want to see more public art?
The City of Vincent has more projects planned and The Beaufort Street Network has launched a Public Art for Beaufort Street Fund which is aiming to collect $5000 from local businesses and residents for more local art. It would be great to see the City of Stirling installing public artworks further down Beaufort Street and for the City of Bayswater to look at similar projects in areas like Maylands, where public art would perfectly complement the renaissance underway in 8th Ave & Whatley Cres. How about getting a wall of your home painted by a local street artist? That’s what some residents in Vic Park are doing.

Yes we need roads, but I also want to live and work in a community that has heart – that makes mine beat when I walk around it. Yay for Tandem, yay to City of Vincent, and yay to more public art!