by Carmen Cita
May Lane in St Peters is internationally recognised as an exhibition space for street artists. It had its last curated street art program in 2012.
Since then local residents have been divided over the future of the art space, prompting Marrickville Council to intervene.
Local business owner Tugi Balog invited street artists to turn the walls of his business, Graphic Art Mount, in May Lane into an outdoor gallery in 2005. The diversity and calibre of art on display inspired other local residents to join suit.
Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore praised the laneway, saying: “May Lane is known internationally as a place for people to visit and see good quality street art. The inner west is home to some amazing and skilled street artists, and May Lane is the highlight.”
In 2012, the official May Lane curated program ceased but spray painting and tagging have continued, which has raised concern among residents about the quality.
At a recent community meeting, some residents complained that activity in the area caused aerosol fumes, antisocial behaviour, litter and damage to private property.
Other residents argued that street art is vital to the local area and expressed concern that artists were being pushed out.
For many in the community, May Lane remains a source of local pride. When Marrickville Council surveyed 93 residents and business owners around the lane in 2009, 83 per cent were supportive of the street art.
The Council is proposing a revival of the area, comprising of a curated bi-annual art program and the designation of nearby practice walls where local artists can practice with less impact on residents.
Deputy Mayor Rosana Tyler claims that the measures will renew and consolidate May Lane as one of the most renowned street art sites in Sydney.
“The curated program will re-launch May Lane as a street art site of regional and national interest, while at the same time educating taggers and graffiti artists, via appropriate signage, that ad hoc and illegal painting activities in the lane will not be tolerated,” she said.
“Designated painting times will make it safer for artists, will give residents notice and will make it easier to establish when illegal activity is taking place.”
Cr Ellsmore agrees. “If we want to support street artists we need to assist with legal places for them to display their art, without the risk of them being charged with one of NSW’s draconian anti-graffiti laws,” she said.