A bold, colourful vision for West Melbourne

A bold, colourful vision for West Melbourne
Spencer Fowler Steen

West Melbourne’s Marylin Monroe may have caught your eye as you stroll down Stanley St.

But for Kirsten Mann, the striking image painted on her garage door is just the tip of the iceberg of what she envisages West Melbourne could look like.

After returning from a holiday to a small town in South Africa, Ms Mann was blown away by the “gorgeous” artwork she saw painted on the outside of houses and shops there.

“There were five streets filled with gorgeous graffiti – it was spectacular!” she said.

“I thought what a difference when the whole neighbourhood makes a commitment to bring creativity and colour.”

A user experience and product manager by trade, Ms Mann is used to conceptualising designs and experiences for people, so she quickly got in touch with June Chen, a well-renowned Melbourne artist who has had her works displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria in the past.

“We were talking about Marylin Monroe and how everyone knows she’s a beautiful, iconic lady,” Ms Chen said.

“But not many people know her true story.”

“So, we thought this would be a fun way to create some awareness.”

Ms Mann is often asked by curious passers-by why she chose to paint the movie stair on her house.

She explains that contrary to what people think, Marylin Monroe wasn’t just a pretty face.

“She was one of the first women to have her own production company,” Ms Mann said.

“A lot of people don’t realise that she was a strong, trailblazer at a terrible time for female actors.”

Monroe broke away from the iron grip of the big five production companies in the US in the ‘50s to start her own company, won a lawsuit against them, then was subsequently given a pay rise and the ability to choose which movies she acted in – unheard of at the time, according to Ms Mann.

“Imagine if the neighbourhood was filled with art and people like this,” she said.

“People could see them and discover things about amazing people they had no idea about.”

Ms Mann’s house is a microcosm of what she thinks West Melbourne could potentially look like.

It includes a hot pink gate, a giant painting of a woman roller-skating in her courtyard – a beloved hobby which she enjoys being reminded of while she works – and a spectacular “light forest” hanging from her ceiling.

But when it comes to recreating her experience of the little South African town fittingly named Woodstock in West Melbourne, Ms Chen is fully on board.

“We’re open to more ideas, it’s what art is, it’s about fun collaboration,” she said.

“I’m interested in making neighbourhoods more colourful and putting thought-provoking images out there.”

Ms Mann said it would be “awesome” to plan artwork for other houses in West Melbourne and would instantly be able to give anyone “at least 20 ideas.”

“I just remembered this beautiful suburb of colour and I thought, imagine if we could have this in Melbourne?” she said •

To get in contact, email [email protected]

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