Most people don’t even know it exists but a Katoomba laneway often targeted by vandals could soon be transformed into a “real asset” for the local tourism and arts scene.
Councillors are backing an initiative of the Mountains Youth Services Team (MYST) and Blue Mountains Street Art Collaborative (BMSAC) to create an urban art project in Beverley Place behind the Katoomba Street shops.
BMSAC co-ordinator Jarrod Wheatley said the location is ideal for an urban art walk featuring work by local and international street artists.
“We couldn’t be luckier in the town centre to have such an urban looking scene, which might now look a bit unsightly but is actually a huge asset for urban art,” he said.
“It is a site that is currently not contributing to the community, so transforming it into a real jewel would bring more people to the bottom half of Katoomba Street.
“If we go at this whole-heartedly and do it properly, people will travel to Katoomba to see it.”
Mr Wheatley has been involved in legal youth street art projects for five years and can confidently say “it is a crime prevention strategy by design” in sites prone to tagging.
“It [the project] will also create follow-up opportunities for the site to be more actively used for things like workshops, markets or pop-up shops.
“It’s a pivotal decision and we are lucky to have the support of the councillors and the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and everyone from the large end of town to local businesses like Riley’s Renovators, which is offering to supply us with scaffolding.
“We’ve created a few concept murals at Beverley Place and the next step is we will be taking it to a meeting with stakeholders. . . We want to move forward but do that in a manner that preserves the locality’s heritage.”
Councillors unanimously supported a notice of motion by Ward 1 Clr Don McGregor to support the project in principle. They will receive a briefing “as soon as possible” to streamline the approval process “such that a development application is not required for each item”.
Clr McGregor said the project could even become interactive as “MYST is proposing these works of art have barcodes on them that can be read by smart phones and give a running commentary”.
He said similar schemes in Melbourne and Sydney have “become a destination for tourists”.
Clr Mick Fell said “some of those artworks in Melbourne have been done by ex-students of Winmalee High School”.
“It could well be a feature of the art scene in the Upper Mountains and attract people,” he said.