Project Spotlight – Translating Village Memories into Art

by Katherine Masiulanis, Leafing Public Art Projects
Soon after the long Melbourne lockdowns of 2021 started to lift, a corner of Heidelberg West in Melbourne’s northern suburbs was flooded with colour.
For seventeen days in 1956, this area was the Olympic Village of the Melbourne Olympic Games. Previously, athletes attending the games had been housed in large barrack style buildings which were of limited use after the event. However, the Australian Olympic Committee decided to move away from this idea to create a Village of houses, which would help to build a strong and diverse community after the athletes returned home.
To celebrate this history, Banyule City Council commissioned a mural from two collaborating artists: Robyn Shrives Designs and Katherine Masiulanis of Leafing Public Art and Leaf Design Studio. Inspiration came in the form of an excellent report by Chris Thompson ‘In the Village of our Future Imagination’, which documents the memories and anecdotes of people who live or have lived in the Village after the Games.
Working with these fabulous stories, we were able to develop a detailed mural that celebrates some of the more personal and less civic memories of the Games. Remembering women like Mrs Katherine Blake, Head Housekeeper, who managed 450 staff to keep things running smoothly. Remembering the elderly gardener who was too polite to ask sunbathing athletes to move, and so simply mowed around them. Armies of local kids came hunting autographs, many of whom still have the autograph books. On the final night of the games, how the athletes found themselves dancing in rings, regardless of their country of origin. Following this event, the closing ceremony now always features a symbolic coming together in the middle of the stadium in a party like gathering.
Olympic Park mural is likewise a celebration: of the origins of the Village, but also of all the nations who still live here, and make this place special.