Category Archives: creativity

Liminal visual delight in the city

Birds of Australia. Artwork by Egg Picnic.

Sometimes living in a big, vibrant, noisy and expanding city like Sydney has some surprising moments. Like when you come across one of the City of Sydney-commissioned artworks on an enormous building site. The city is full-to-bursting with cranes and construction of all kinds at the moment as the land and sky scape eternally changes around us.

I call these moments of seeing things like this ‘acts of liminal visual delight’. They’re fleeting and precarious. They exist in snippets of in-between time. On a threshold of before and after. And they’re a little bit ephemeral too. Once the building is complete and the scaffolding dismantled, the artworks will be gone. And ‘visual delight’, because works like this one (see photo above and below), Birds of Australia by Egg Picnic, are a splash of lively colour on what would otherwise be a bland old black or white external hoarding outside this Bay St, Glebe residential building site. Pleasure, joy, thrill, delight.

This sense of precariousness is communicated in another way too. Egg Picnic’s work was created to remind us of the vulnerable nature of Australia’s wildlife. Birdwatchers and designers, Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso (aka Egg Picnic), want us to look at the artwork. To notice it. To take a moment out of our busy day to marvel at the kooky bird life that inhabits our big brown land. Australia, home to the quirky kookaburra with their chortling evening laughter. The squawking cockatoo. The swooping magpie.

Birds of Australia

Having colourful art hoardings like these on building sites all over Sydney does something a little bit magical. It alters the zeitgeist of the city. It uplifts and reshapes it. It includes creativity into the everyday, the unexpected, and even the usually ugly.

Acts like this add colour and movement, and create moments of contemplation. They allow for the development of another dimension to city living. More than just commerce, cities are for people are for the natural environment in which the city sits and is surrounded. We need uplifting junctures like this to remind us of our connectivity with others and our natural world.

There are 10 new works like this being commissioned for building sites all of Sydney. What’s really heartening is that the City of Sydney received more than 520 submissions of artwork to be part of their plan to inject more art into the city. I’m going to look out for the 10 that made it through. I suspect it will be a bit like bird watching.


Startups, urban psychology, and creative cities

Pictured: the Pinterest office in San Francisco via Stuck in Customs.

Last week an important announcement was made in Sydney that will give a boost to coworking spaces and the freelancers and startups who mostly use them. The NSW Government announced it will make a significant financial contribution to a new startup hub in an 11-storey building above Wynyard Station on York St. Fishburners (I’ve always loved that name), Australia’s largest coworking space and home to hundreds of ‘high impact scalable startups’, will be an important anchor tenant of the new space at Wynyard Station. Others in the mix include Tankstream Labs, The Studio, and Stone & Chalk in what will be space for 2500 creative entrepreneurs.

It all sounds great. And I’m happy for Fishburners who have expanded rapidly since their 30-desk-one-floor-beginning in 2011. For some time now they’ve needed more space than their current (and beautiful) Harris Street space in Ultimo can provide. But if this is going to work for all involved, then some careful attention to how this new spaces is set up will need to happen. More than ‘just’ cash, this about-to-be startup hub will require some clever design thinking about soft infrastructure. If not, the creatives it seeks to attract will not come. Continue reading


What is a creative city?

View from a friend’s 5th floor walk up rooftop in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn is changing rapidly. Will it lose its creative buzz?

During an extended stay in Manhattan in 2013 I was given a copy of Jane Jacob’s famous 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by a postgrad student who was obsessed with this great urban activist’s vision. I devoured that book, hungry to learn about how New York had developed, particularly during the 20th century. I’ve had three visits to New York since 2008 and will probably have a life-long love affair with that city. This is a common affliction; I am obviously not the first to have ‘suffered’ the lure of this great city.

Many creatives are drawn to the New York, and most would agree that it’s a creative city. But what exactly is meant by the term ‘creative city’? Continue reading


Why does art matter in 2017?

we the people_shepard fairey

Image: ‘We the People’ by artist, Shepard Fairey

In 2016 when I began this blog, I wrote a post titled ‘Why art matters’ because I felt I needed to articulate these ideas, although I’m absolutely not the first to have done so. Even universities, like Standford, have said something on this topic albiet as part of their marketing strategy to recruit more students.

The ideas in my first post still hold now more than ever. Continue reading


What motivates people to create art/design?


The contribution artists and designers make to the world is felt from the everyday (think for a moment about the design of the chair you’re sitting on as you read this or the shape and design of the electronic device you are holding to do so) to the rare and spectacular (consider the work of sand artists or extraordinary architectural feats such as the Flatiron Building in NY). What would our world be like without this phenomenal motivation to create? Continue reading