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The Cost of Culture

By Adrian Doyle, Blender Studios founder and director

Originally posted: February 17th 2018

It was in 2001 when I moved into the giant warehouse at 110 Franklin St.

It was a dream come true, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, (I was on the dole), but I knew that it was something special.

A few weeks later the warehouse was converted into art studios, and it slowly started to fill up (often not covering costs). I moved in upstairs, into what would become known as “The Blender Studios”. It was here that much of the early Melbourne street art movement took off, as many artists used it as a base to create their mark on the city.

It was stencils, painting and parties and the city was under siege. The art created was groundbreaking and soon turned Melbourne into one of the most extensive public art galleries in the world, changing the cultural fabric of the city.

As the urban art movement grew, the laneways became the cultural veins that made Melbourne an internationally-renowned cultural hotspot.

Melbourne became the place to be for artists, musicians, poets and all things creative. There was a very centralised art community in the late 90s and early 2000s, with many large-scale studios and galleries in Flinders Lane, Elizabeth St and throughout the CBD.

With this cultural acclaim, Melbourne finally became world famous for something other than sport.

Then with creative recognition, privatisation of education and changes in local government policy, Melbourne began to change. The CBD was changing at a rate that nobody could have expected. I read somewhere that the CBD’s population has increased by 500 per cent in the last 20 years.

Needless to say, I am writing this in the new location of, Blender Studios, in Docklands. Blender was the very last of the large-scale studios, forced out of Melbourne’s CBD due to high rent and massive corporate development.

Anyway, I like Docklands I think there is something going on and nobody has noticed.

I now have an apartment in Literature Lane in the CBD, a place where I have painted a number of murals including collaborative works with Timor-Leste artists and young people from the Signal Youth Arts program (which is on show now as a photo in the new bottle shop).

The other day I was walking out of my apartment when some young kid gave me the evil eye, so I stuck up a sticker in front of him that said “You Are All The Same!” I know people hate being told that they are all the same, but I’m old skool, and I like art to have an opinion (but that’s a different story.)

This young guy decided I was some kind of tagger and tried to place me under citizens arrest. I explained the legal and cultural legitimacy of what I was doing, but he was, in his mind, championing a moral high ground. In the end, after much talking and patience, I walked off and got a coffee.

People who move into the city when they should be living in the suburbs is what’s slowly destroying the beautiful cultural city that took us years to create. People move to a culturally significant part of Melbourne, whether that be for music, art, concerts or the activation of space through installation, public art and urban art interventions.

As soon as a new block of apartments goes up, people move in because they “like” the culture and the urban environment. And yet, they call the cops, contact the council and, like the guy who accosted me, feel that they are justified in claiming the city as their own.

As the rich keep building away, knocking down studios, murals and art galleries to make way for giant developments, they are also knocking away the creative culture of Melbourne.

You can only leech off something for so long before it runs out of blood. And while people complain about loud music, like at the Cherry Bar, or street art, please understand this: our city is in danger of becoming shit.

We all need to work together to ensure it doesn’t turn into some giant shopping centre or look like an airport.

It’s the grit, grime and underground scene that have made Melbourne into a fascinating city with layers of history and stains of time. We need to ask ourselves – what is our contribution to this great city?


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