The Melbourne Festival has wrapped up with the announcement of the winner of the Melbourne Art Trams People’s Choice Award. Artist collective Joining Forces were awarded the $5,000 prize by the Minister for the Arts Heidi Victoria, who said, ‘Since the first tram was launched in September, the Melbourne Art Trams have become a delightful feature of Melbourne life, injecting a splash of creativity into the everyday experience and showcasing the work of some of Victoria’s most exciting artists.’
The prize-winning tram is a swirl of bizarre and fantastical creatures in a style reminiscent of Jeff Raglus. The tram, running on the 70 and 75 lines, encases its passengers in menacing plants, grotesque monsters, wayward comets and a vacuum cleaner (sucking up nasty vortexes), all overlaid in an otherworldly landscape, strewn with anthropomorphised stars and planets.
Joining Forces is a Melbourne-based collective of six artists – Zahra Zainal, Brendan Ninness, Jeffrey Phillips, Gemma Flack, Rhiannon Thomas and Sebastian Berto. The piece began as a 5m canvas that first appeared at a group show earlier in the year. In response to winning the competition, the artists said, “We are so pleased that our art has been brought to Melbourne in such an accessible and approachable way. Seeing the Joining Forces tram rolling around town has made the work even more meaningful for us…”
The annual competition, set to run another 2 years, received over 100 applicants with 8 trams undergoing a repaint. Runners up include Jon Cambell, Brook Andrew, Bindi Cole, Luke Cornish, Rose Nolan, David Wadelton and Freya Pitt. All eight trams will remain on the transportation network until April 2014.
The project is a revival of the Transporting Art project, which ran from 1978 to 1993 and included works by Michael Leunig, Mirka Mora and Reg Mombassa (of Mambo fame). Brought back to life, the arts initiative has been deemed a great success by both the Melbourne Festival and Yarra Trams, whose Chief Executive Officer Clement Michael said, ‘There has been an overwhelming response to the return of Art Trams. It just shows that art and trams are both entrenched in Melbourne’s culture.”