One of Canberra’s iconic concrete bus shelters in Lyons has scored some extra paint, but it’s not graffiti.
The Woden Community Service (WCS) teamed up with local artist Mimi Fairall – and local community members – to bring the piece of brutalist-style street furniture on Launceston Street to life with colourful depictions of flora and fauna.
The 29-year-old ‘mid-career artist’ from Belconnen met with 10 to 15 Lyons residents for “brainstorming sessions” when the animals and flowers of the nearby Oakey Hill came up. The nearby nature reserve also doubles as a popular walking and hiking post for many.
“The flora and fauna on Oakey Hill are abundant and diverse, and I believe important to highlight for environmental awareness,” Mimi says.
Mimi created a design for the bus shelter and invited community members to come and have a go at painting. A total of 14 people helped, ranging from 4 years old and up.
Earlier in the year, Mimi made a name for herself by painting a mural on the main building of the Lyons Shops, also coordinated by WCS. It was so well received she was invited back to do the bus shelter.
“For both the shops and bus stop murals, I hosted open painting sessions where locals and their kids could drop in and paint a section of the mural guided by me,” she says.
“The reaction from the community has been outstanding – the diverse demographic of people in the suburb have commented on how the colours, playfulness and relevance of the imagery have transformed the space into an uplifting and positive environment.”
Mimi graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) in 2015 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts with Honours and a major in print media and drawing. She has always wanted to be an artist as “there didn’t seem anything else quite right”.
“I have discovered so many ways to be an artist outside of drawing or painting pictures, and at the moment, my favourite is definitely using my skills to brighten up spaces for the community,” she says.
“Making art visible, accessible and encouraging creative expression in everyone regardless of skill level or formal education is important to me. Too often, people believe ‘they can’t draw’ or ‘don’t get art’, which makes me sad. The exclusivity and snobbery surrounding art need to be completely abandoned because it shuts people out.”
WCS Community Development Officer Emily McNamara described the community-led project as a lovely way for residents to meet and get to know each other.
“We had a lot of people stop by for a chat, a few of them familiar faces from earlier in the year,” she says.
“Amelia, an ex-resident of Lyons, bought her three children, and their family painted the Australian Bluebell together. Charlotte came to do some painting as she had previously worked on the larger mural. Young Elsbeth will catch the bus for school each day next year, so she is looking forward to seeing her contribution.”
It all started when a Lyons resident contacted Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) about the local shops, which were looking “a bit run down and in need of a bit of colour”. TCCS passed the call to WCS, who then got funding for the mural from the Woden Arts Program.
Emily says the bus shelter was then a “nice spinoff”.
“One thing we focus on is placemaking initiatives because creating a connection to a space or place helps people connect to each other. It’s really important to have little fun projects like this one.”
WCS is still in talks with the relevant authorities, but the next artwork in Lyons is tipped to take the form of a mosaic-style mural. Mimi may not be on track for this one, but she says there are “conversations happening” regarding more bus stop murals in other Canberra suburbs.
“The more bus stop paintings, the better,” Mimi says.