Council slammed over mural censoring

The original mural (left) with the parking message, and after the council makeover (right).

A Yarraville artist has expressed surprise at Maribyrnong council censoring part of a mural he created to celebrate the Yarraville community.

A team led by street artist Heesco spent four days creating the mural alongside the eastern wall of the Village Store, a tagging hotspot on the edge of a public car park.

But the inclusion of a ‘No Paid Parking in Yarraville’ message in the mural, as a reflection of the community’s long but ultimately failed campaign to keep parking meters out of the village, raised the ire of the council.

An officer painted over the offending element on Monday, prompting an outpouring of anger on social media.

The mural was jointly funded by the council and the operators of the Village Store.

Heesco told Star Weekly he hadn’t expected the inclusion of the slogan to create so much controversy.

He conceded the slogan had not been included in the concept design, but said it was a reflection of local views as displayed on a banner that had long hung on the building.

“We do this for the community. It’s not a stance on my part, but expressing local views,” he said.

“We are artists, we’re not just signwriters.  I’m not deliberately trying to sabotage this project, I have a good relationship with the council. I think everybody should just relax a bit.”

The Village Store owner Daniel Anderson said he was happy with the mural overall despite disliking some elements.

He said he was unaware but unsurprised the council had censored the mural, created as part of the council’s $40,000 StreetWORKS project using street art to brighten spaces and discourage graffiti and tagging.

Council chief executive Stephen Wall said the concept design featuring Yarraville Village icons was agreed with the artists and approved by council and the Village Store property owner.

“Unbeknown to council, the artists added additional artwork containing political messaging. Council painted out the messaging and council has asked the artist to finalise the design to agreed specifications,” he said.

“We respect the right for artists to hold opinions on council decisions, however commissioned artwork is not the right forum for these opinions.”

Yarraville ward councillor Michael Clarke said he was “overwhelmingly disappointed” in the council’s action.

“This is not Eastern Bloc Europe, when art or the nature of art was dictated by the sentiments of the bureaucracy,” he said.

“It’s a piece of art that reflects a slice of time. The response is an anxious response and an awkward response. Such behaviour by any government is putting out fire with gasoline.”