Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The People's Path

On the Western side of Fitzroy Gardens, about halfway between Treasury Place and Albert Street, is one of Melbourne's quirkiest pieces of public art: The People's Path.

Map showing the location of the People's Path.

Consisting of 10 000 terra cotta bricks, each featuring an individual design, the People's Path forms a simple loop around a tree at one of the park's entrances.

In the 1970's, Victorian artists combined to form the Crafts Council of Victoria (CCV), the first representative body in the state to attract Government funding for craft work. Among the projects funded by the CCV were several large, public art events, designed to get more people actively involved in the arts.

Often timed to form part of Moomba, these public events featured activities as diverse as mass tie-dying and weaving workshops, a textile maze and an oversize climbing net. The events were held in public parks around Melbourne, including; the Treasury Gardens, Exhibition Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens. 

In 1975, the CCV sponsored a year long Craft Festival, featuring a number of these public events. This was followed by another festival in 1978, where the People's Path was on the program. The Path was the brainchild of Ian Sprague, a well known local artist and potter who had been a founding member of the Craft Association of Victoria (the CCV's forerunner).

The bricks were created by members of the public on the opening day of the festival, and formally unveiled by the Premier of Victoria, R.J. Hamer, on February 18, 1978. The designs are comical, idiosyncratic, significant, obtuse and personal. Some of them show messages, or indicate where in the world the creator was from. More often they show pictures, some elaborate, some childishly simple. A surprisingly large number make mention of the slogan 'Life Be In It', or that campaign's cartoon spokesman Norm.

I  nearly always pause and have a look at a few, when I'm passing through that part of the gardens.

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