People of Balaclava is an Australian-first initiative which aims to mitigate graffiti and improve the appearance of the upper facades of more than 20 properties in Carlisle Street. The series features a range of portraits by numerous local artists.
Since late yesterday, Council has received a large volume of community complaints regarding some portraits that form part of this series.
We realise that regardless of the artist’s intentions, the portraits have deeply upset and divided members of our community and for that we apologise.
Our City’s thriving arts program aims to provide vibrancy, colour and life to our shopping precincts and assist in creating an environment where everybody feels welcomed. Our community has told us these murals have achieved the opposite impact and we are deeply regretful that that has occurred.
When Council was first made aware that the artist’s figures could be interpreted as Anti-Semitic, we reached out to several Jewish community leaders for advice. Whilst no concerns were raised, the current conflict has understandably heightened sensitivities and Council has no desire to add to the pain and distress many of our community are already feeling.
We will commence removing the portraits later this afternoon and anticipate this work will take a few days to complete.
We will be evaluating other art projects to ensure this situation isn’t repeated and where appropriate, discussing work in progress with relevant agencies. We will also ensure our processes are tightened to ensure that such distress and upset is not repeated.
CLARIFICATION – The consultation that Council Officers did with the Jewish community regarding Michael Porter’s artwork involved a different mural to those painted in Carlisle Street. As the facial features were similar, Officers mistakenly applied the same advice, however, in doing so, missed the importance of considering context, location and story. Council did not intend to convey that Jewish community leaders were in any way responsible for approving the Carlisle Street murals and if we did so, we apologise.