Taking inspiration from the moveable lettering often used by churches and art deco cinemas, artist Astra Howard has created a public artwork that reflects changing community ideas in Surry Hills.
The words displayed will change every few months into a new prose or poem, communicating stories of the area. “Through the constantly rearranged letters, this artwork recalls intimate games of scrabble, prompting passers-by to think about diverse issues that affect them, from the local to the global,” says Howard.
The first text to feature on the artwork has been offered by dancer and poet Coralie Hinkley, in a workshop at the Mission Australia Centre. More workshops will take place in local community centres, libraries and schools to develop narratives for the display. There will also be a drop-box at Surry Hills Library, where people can submit their ideas.
Astra says of the discussions so far: “The contributors described experiences that were personal, often of great consequence, sometimes humorous, and certainly always informative.”
About Astra Howard
For Astra, public art has the ability to reveal hidden stories and facilitate unexpected interactions between people, often strangers. “It can be the catalyst for discussion and debate about social, cultural, political and environmental issues,” says Astra.
Astra’s long list of projects spans various cities in Australia, as well as the US, UK, China, Vietnam and France. Many of these projects address social issues like homelessness, reflecting her engagement with this sector over many years in inner Sydney.
Closer to home, Astra talks about her work in the late 90s and early 2000s in Sydney: “I felt that my low-impact action research/performance projects were legitimate ways to better understand the city.”
Read a full interview with Astra, in which she talks about her engagements with cities, her background related to design and community services, as well as her site-specific and public art practice.