Australia Housing and planning

Using art to enhance urban development: The City of Sydney creative hoardings program


When it comes to urban planning, even the most minor changes can make a massive difference to a lived environment. The City of Sydney Community Art Hoarding Program demonstrates this. Responding to community demands for more street art to uplift the streets of Sydney, this local government initiative aims to bring creativity into the everyday lives of the City’s residents.

Attracting around 615,000 visitors each day, and with more than 437,000 working in the local area, the 2017 Hoardings & Scaffolding policy outlined the imperative need for temporary structures to have the least possible impact on the movement of people.

However, the Creative Arts program goes a step further. Identified in the 2014-2024 Creative City cultural policy and action plan, the idea is to facilitate the use of hoardings as a creative canvas in Sydney’s public domain. Based on the NYC Urban Canvas project and design competition, the program began as an opportunity for artists and designers to create printed artwork for temporary protective structures and hoardings at construction sites.

Requiring that developers building in high-traffic areas cover their protective fencing with art, either by a living Australian artist or relevant historical images, construction companies can use artworks licensed by the City of Sydney for free.

As of November 2022, the City of Sydney has licensed 30 contemporary Australian artworks that have been used on more than 220 hoardings across the local area over the last five years.

While there were no limitations on artwork concepts, artists could respond to three themes – Eora Journey: Recognition in the public domain, LGBTIQA+ pride and expansive greening.

Types of hoardings

The City of Sydney specifies three options for installing artwork on eligible hoardings.

  • Bespoke. Site-specific artwork that requires the City of Sydney’s approval.
  • Historic images. Temporary structures surrounding heritage-listed sites or in areas of heritage significance are required to display historic images of the locality.
  • Site Works. Calls for artists and designers from across the nation to propose artworks for display on hoardings. These are available to use on eligible hoardings free of charge.


City of Sydney Lord Mayer, Clover Moore, commented that the program was a fantastic way for local artists to showcase their work “loudly and proudly” on busy roads and intersections, injecting creativity into the everyday lives of Sydney residents.

“Not only does the program brighten streets and make the city a more pleasant place to visit and move through, it provides work for artists, many of whom have struggled to exhibit through the pandemic,” Mayor Moore said.

“We’ve picked beautifully artistic pieces that are sure to inspire, delight and engage Sydneysiders as they pass by and I can’t wait to see them installed across the city.”

Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay artist Dennis Golding’s artwork, Colouring Memory, is inspired by his childhood in Redfern, surrounded by iron lacework on the balconies of the area’s terrace houses. Reimagining Victorian fences as colourful shields, Indigenous plants overlay old European motifs to reclaim space and share First Nations history. “These objects were in our everyday life. I colour them through my connection to place, and memories of the past,” Mr Golding said.

Heavy Light by artist, Andrew Christie, and Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre, an organisation that runs dance and theatre training for people with disability, combines digital technology and performance. Dancers created avatars of themselves that express the thrills and tensions of the stage, the importance of visibility and the weight of self-confrontation.
“We settled on natural forms for the avatars, meaning each dancer could take ownership of a specific element while feeling continually connected to the whole.

You can find the 10 newly selected artworks here! Sign-up to LGIU Australia for more local government innovation.


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