Public art focus for Southbank open space

Southbank project - courtesy of City of MelbourneThe City of Melbourne has announced the appointment of leading independent curator Vaari Claffey as the Public Art Strategist for the $35 million transformation of Southbank Boulevard and Dodds Street to create new public open space.

Chair of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Portfolio Councillor Rohan Leppert said that public art was a key element of the plan to revamp Southbank Boulevard and Dodds Street.

“I’m pleased to announce that Vaari Claffey will develop a vision for the creation of public art over the next three years, which will respond to and enhance these unique public spaces,” said Councillor Leppert. “Vaari will consult with Southbank stakeholders including creative organisations as she develops a strategy for public art that will help transform this important precinct into a vibrant public space.”

Councillor Leppert said Vaari Claffey was selected from a shortlist of candidates after she presented a compelling vision for the precinct.

“Public art has an important role to play in the transformation of civic space. Vaari’s strategy for Southbank will ensure that new works will be commissioned through a rigorous selection process,” said Councillor Leppert. “With her track record in establishing new ways to commission artworks and build relationships between people and places, Vaari is well placed to lead this exciting project in Southbank, which is home to our leading creative organisations.”

Vaari Claffey welcomed the opportunity to lead the creation of a vision and strategy for public art in Southbank. ”I’m excited both to have been selected and to begin this new role as Public Art Strategist for Southbank,” said Ms Claffey. “The process to date has been ambitious but very considered and I look forward to some fantastic public art commissions emerging from it into the area from St Kilda Road to the Yarra River.”

Vaari Claffey is a Dublin-based independent curator known for producing dynamic exhibitions and longer-term projects of complex scope. These include the conversion of a neglected 18th-century house in rural Ireland for a large-scale exhibition called Magnetism in 2015, and The People’s Cinema (with Seamus Kealy) at the Salzburger Kunstverein in 2016. She teaches at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology and the National College of Art and Design, both in Dublin.

Members of the public are invited to learn more about public art and its role in the Southbank project at a panel conversation at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on Saturday 19 August. Speakers include Vaari Claffey; the City of Melbourne’s Director of City Design and Projects, Prof Rob Adams; Director of Monash University Museum of Art, Charlotte Day; and Jefa Greenaway of Greenaway Architects. This is a free event however bookings through Eventbrite are essential.

A Community Workshop on the Draft Concept Plan for the transformation of Southbank Boulevard and Dodds Street will also take place from at 9:00am to 11:00am on Saturday 19 August, at the Melbourne Theatre Company. Email to confirm attendance.

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Artist Impression of Dodds Street, Southbank – courtesy of City of Melbourne