One of the most iconic sights on the streets of Melbourne are its trams, with their recognisable green and yellow designs. Melbourne is also a city of art, bursting with art galleries large and small, art exhibitions, and celebrated graffiti down every alleyway. In 2013, the city of Melbourne decided to put these two cultural staples together, and introduce the world to the Melbourne Art Trams project.
The Melbourne Tram Network
With over 250km of tram tracks criss-crossing the city and the suburbs, Melbourne’s tram network is the largest in the world (Moscow is second, with 208km). Trams are a way of life for many Melbournians; in the year period spanning 2007-2008, over 200 million people rode around on the Melbourne tram network.
The first foray into decorating trams ran between 1978 to 1993, when the Transporting Art project painted 36 W-class trams in incredible designs. The idea was revived in 2013 through collaborations with the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Creative Victoria and Public Transport Victoria. Every year, 8 artists are chosen to design an art tram. The winning designs are printed onto large vinyl stickers, and applied to trams of different classes, so that the art can be enjoyed by everyone.
The Classic Melbourne Tram Design
Most trams in Melbourne have a distinctive yellow, green and white design. They were originally painted in a chocolate and cream colour scheme. When the St Kilda route was electrified, the colours were changed to green and cream to match the trees on the route. The colour scheme eventually expanded to the whole tram fleet.
The 2019 Melbourne Art Tram Designs
Every year, a new host of artists are selected to have their works displayed on Melbourne’s trams. The 2019 designs are created by a diverse group of talented people.
Nyein Chan Aung
Originally born in Myanmar, and now living in Melbourne, Nyein Chan Aung’s tram is called The Late Supper. An interpretive play on The Last Supper, the tram artwork depicts diners enjoying dinner at Melbourne restaurant Supper Inn Chinese Restaurant. While the artwork is composed of different people from different points in time, there is one identifiable subject – the central figure Dr Thinn Thinn Khine, the artist’s wife.
Associate professor Gene Bawden, from Melbourne’s Monash University, spells out the artwork in its colourful design. Not quite sure what it says? In the geometric design, you’ll see the words ‘Yours, Mine, Ours.’
Barkindji man Kent Morris is an artist based in Melbourne. His tram art reflects the traditional land on which the city of Melbourne is built, the land of the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. His design is based on an ugly building of St Kilda’s Chapel Street, which has been reimagined to include elements of Aboriginal culture. There is a prominent feature of local birds, the black and white magpies.
Beaconhills College Year 3 Collective
The kids from year 3 of Beaconhills College, in the south-east of Melbourne, were the lucky chosen artists for one of the art trams. Their submission won against other schools to be chosen for the project Altogether, 78 students contributed to the happy and vibrant design, which represents the welcoming nature of Melbourne.
Westerman’s tram design is based a series of colour etchings she produced, entitled ‘I think we were friends once, maybe.’ The layered forms, originally representing isolation, come together here to represent a sense of community.
Lesley Dumbrell’s design is a piece originally put onto a tram in 1986, for the Transporting Art project. Her first iteration of this design started off on an old W-class tram, now redesigned for the larger B-class.
Nusra Latif Qureshi
Qureshi’s beautiful red and white tram design is based on her work ‘Layers of Red’, from 2005. In the style of Mughal miniature painting, this floral design incorporates a single a female figure, all in the style of antique French textiles.
Street and stencil artist Vandal is the designer for this eye-catching Marbaamarbaa garingali (multi-coloured native dog). Vandal, whose real name is Tricia Van Der-Kuyp, is a Wiradjuri Melbourne-based artist who uses spray paints, Sharpies and stencils for her art.
While there are only 8 of the 2019 art trams rattling around Melbourne, its surprising how often you come across one, and it brightens your day to see such great works of art on public display. This round of Melbourne art trams will eventually change, however, and we can always look forward to the next generation of art trams!