Student mural paints a new future for Johnstons Creek

Western Sydney University’s Painted River Project run by Dr Leo Robba and Dr Ian Wright has led to the co-creation of a new student mural, as part of efforts to rehabilitate an urban waterway in Sydney’s Inner West.

Unveiled today at Johnstons Creek with City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott, the mural was inspired by artworks created by Forest Lodge Public School students, who attended an outdoor education day earlier this year, where they learned about the ecology of the waterway and reimaged the landscape.

The Painted River Project aims to highlight the importance of healthy rivers and water catchments to the future of the Sydney region. It seeks to communicate this message through community interaction where art meets science in a creative collaboration.

Western Sydney University students Susan Alzaim and Dakota Hudson, who both study the Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication), teamed up to design the mural inspired by the students’ work.

Dakota said the duo took care to find an art style that best reflected the students’ imaginations during the design process.

“Our adaption of the school students’ art was sourced from their paintings and converted digitally. We wanted to emulate the youthful and free-spirited qualities of the original artworks,” said Dakota.

According to Susan, the mural was designed around keywords and themes significant to the project, these were ‘reconnection’, ‘regrowth’ and ‘hope’.

“Our youth will play a significant role in shaping a world they want to be a part of. In this case, we hope the mural inspires the urban transformation of the area and the possibilities for its growth,” explained Susan.

The mural is located in Jubilee Park, Glebe in a high foot-traffic area close to the creek. It celebrates the importance of healthy waterways and The Painted River Project’s aim for community collaboration and new ways of seeing nature. It also recognises the Year Six student’s connection to their ‘unique place’ in the world and Sydney Water’s re-naturalisation of Johnstons Creek.

Sydney Water’s Head of Program Delivery, Mark Simister said: “We are delighted to be here today for the unveiling of the Johnstons Creek painted river project mural, what a creative way to have the community contribute to the area surrounding the Johnstons Creek upgrades.”

“The naturalisation of Johnstons Creek is a major project being led by Sydney Water, in partnership with Diona and City of Sydney, which involves replacing the banks with sandstone and native plants, intertidal rock pools, a boardwalk, paths and seating, and replacing the Council-owned concrete footbridge near Dalgal Way.”

Founder of The Painted River Project, Dr Leo Robba from the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, said what started as an educational day organised for the students, quickly turned into an opportunity for much more.

“At the heart of The Painted River Project is fostering the connection between local communities and their waterways and to support an understanding that human health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to the health of natural systems,” said Dr Robba.

Water expert Dr Ian Wright, from the School of Science, said: “The mural is a powerful example of this engagement with art and science and the role youths can play in bettering our environments.”


9 December 2020

Media Officer, Ali Sardyga

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas