RMIT: Mobile art installation connects regional creative community to Melbourne and beyond

Students from Bairnsdale Secondary College recently took part in a special six-week program that encouraged them to explore creative career pathways, develop digital creative literacy, and connect with arts industry professionals locally and state-wide.

The finished artwork, which was the result of a collaboration between RMIT’s I Belong initiative, The Smith Family’s SmArts program, and the East Gippsland Shire Council was displayed as part of Mobile Architecture: The Exchange Van – a research collaboration between East Gippsland Shire Council and RMIT University.

The Exchange Van, which most recently paid a visit to Bairnsdale Secondary College, East Gippsland Shire Library, and the main streets of Bairnsdale, supported the mobile exhibition of multimedia artworks displayed on LED screens on the vehicle’s exterior architecture, with a focus on engaging public interaction and community connectivity.

Through the support of RMIT, participating students took part in online creative workshops that supported them to develop a creative concept resulting in a 2D artwork animation to be exhibited as public artwork. The workshops facilitated by RMIT designer and artist, Grace Leone, and East Gippsland artist Lee Nickless, provided the opportunity for students to get a glimpse of what tertiary study in design and art could entail and to imagine their artwork exhibited in public space.

Grace Leone, the RMIT researcher and educator leading the project, said it has been exciting to support young creative individuals connect with the University and established practitioners in the arts and culture industry more broadly through the infrastructure of Mobile Architecture: The Exchange Van.

“This research collaboration has allowed students to build digital literacy skills and proudly showcase their art in public space, allowing their school community, local Bairnsdale residents and others to interact with and admire their work.,” she said.

“We wanted to facilitate a safe space for creative young people to develop relationships with creative, educational, cultural and council organisations and potentially open up career opportunities for them down the track,” she said.

Anton Leschen, The Smith Family’s General Manager in Victoria, said the children’s education charity was delighted to partner with RMIT once again to enable students who may be experiencing disadvantage access to creative opportunities through a research project like The Exchange Van.

One of the students who participated in The Exchange Van research project, said the experience has given her the tools and confidence to explore her creative side in more depth.

“I’ve always been artistic and enjoyed making art as a hobby, but I never considered pursuing it as a study or career option,” the student said.

“Thanks to the program, I was able to explore a wide range of university degrees on offer and am really excited about my future. Who knows, maybe I’ll even become a graphic designer one day,” she said.

Another student from Bairnsdale Secondary said the project has been a great opportunity to have their artwork exist beyond their “mum’s fridge” and provides the community access to experience their art in a public space, art that was influenced by an important personal value for them.

“As an Aboriginal and member of the LGBTQ community, equality is important to me,” the said.

“I used the image of eyes and text ‘we are not so different, are we?’ To create art that reminds people that we all have things in common,” they said.

The future for The Exchange Van research project is looking bright with the East Gippsland Shire Council excited to continue to see how art and design practice can be brought to remote regions of East Gippsland, engaging and reskilling creative communities.

“Long term, I can see The Exchange Van becoming a community space where artists can gather, learn skills, display their artworks, and connect our communities across the broad regions of East Gippsland,” Councillor Kirsten Van Diggele from East Gippsland Shire Council said.