Local high school students have reclaimed Sydney’s history as part of a COFA research project designed to transform urban spaces with public art.

Year 8-11 students from Moriah College and North Sydney, Hornsby and Burwood Girls’ High Schools took part in the COFA-led Cultivating Urban Ecologies project which aimed to transform Sydney’s public spaces through small-scale ecological public art.

The roles of play, performance and history were explored as ways to enhance the quality of urban ecologies.

“The project is based on the idea that art can ‘curate’ or ‘care for’ space,” said UNSW Visiting Fellow and lead researcher, Dr Kerry Thomas. “The aim was to develop case studies of artistic projects in locations around school communities.”

Visual arts students from Moriah College created interactive works based on the history of the College and nearby Centennial Park, including walking tours, video projections, stop motion animations and sensory based installations that encourage audience engagement.

Year 11 student, Jessica Lorge, created an audio tour of the school which was originally the Eastern Suburbs Hospital and then a hospital for American naval soldiers. The interactive tour tells the story of a nurse working in the hospital in the 1940's who marries an American patient. The audience is encouraged to look at photographs of the site that Lorge manipulated in Photoshop.

“The audio tour questions the traditional role of audiences by asking them to 'play' to discover the forgotten history and stories of the school,” said Moriah College visual arts teacher, Melinda Hodges. "The project challenged  the students ideas about art and opened their eyes to new, cutting edge artworks that utilise technology to re-connect artists and audiences."

Dr Thomas and the teachers involved presented their research project at the annual Visual Art and Design Educators Association conference earlier this year.

“Visual Arts is a complex field of practice and this project has enabled students and teachers to collaborate together while making artworks that contribute to caring for the urban environment – an area of art that many contemporary artists and designers are committed to," said Dr Thomas.

She will discuss Cultivating Urban Ecologies at the COFA Talks lecturePlay, Code,Track: 21st Century essentials. 

The project was funded by a COFA Faculty Research Grant.

Media contact: Fran Strachan | 9385 8732 | 0429 416 070