Exploring the Impact of Street Art in the Illawarra

Once considered mere graffiti, street art is now recognized as a legitimate art form that adds colour, character, and cultural significance to our urban landscapes. Local artists are leaving their mark on walls, laneways, and buildings, transforming the Illawarra into an open-air art gallery. Read on to find out about how our streets have had a major glow up and the positive impact it has had on our local community.

Mural pictured above was commissioned by the Transport for NSW Dapto Station and created by Coomaditchie artists Lorraine Brown and Narelle Thomas. The work represents the six distinct seasons recognized by the people of Dharawal Country and creates a beautiful backdrop for the station. Photo by Creative co.

The Rise of Street Art in the Illawarra

The rise of street art in the Illawarra can be attributed to several factors. In 2012 over 50 works were commissioned as part of a program for the Wollongong CBD through ‘Wonderwalls’. Wonderwalls is a street art festival celebrating the vibrant transformation of Wollongong into a city alive with art and culture. With the arts and culture community only growing within the Illawarra region, so has the visible works – From small alleyway pieces to multi-storey masterpieces.

Wollongong’s own Matildas star Caitlin Ford has just this week been honoured with an incredible 14 metre mural by Claire Foxton. Starting her career in the Illawarra, Ford played junior clubs in Warilla and Albion Park before going to Illawarra Sports High and being selected for the Illawarra Stingrays. Now playing as a striker for the Matildas and winger for Arsenal, the mural serves as inspiration to young athletes in the region.

Matildas Star Caitlin Ford and Artist Claire Foxton

“For any young boy or girl around the Illawarra area, every time they walk into the mall they will have that there now, and be able to dream big and think why can’t that be me as well one day. When I was younger I didn’t have something like that to look at, so yeah, it is huge to have that and for kids to dream big.” – Ford


The Impact of Street Art on the Illawarra

Street art has had a profound impact on the Illawarra. It has transformed once-drab walls into vibrant canvases, injected new life into forgotten spaces, and created a sense of pride and ownership among local residents. These projects bring community members together, encouraging collaboration and creativity.

Giving local artists the opportunity to show their skills off is an incredibly positive and impactful collaboration. The open-air works serve as inspiration whilst providing art that is accessible to the local community.

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'Woman with Red Lips' by Rone, Photo by Gerard Brown

‘Woman with Red Lips’ by Rone, Photo by Gerard Brown

Notable Illawarra Street Artists

The Illawarra boasts a diverse range of talented street artists, each with their own unique style and message. Some of the most notable include:

  • Jyi ‘Jyiro’ Westaway: An acclaimed Indigenous artist, Jyiro’s work often explores themes of identity, culture, and connection to country. His murals can be found throughout the region, including a large-scale piece at the University of Wollongong.
  • Claire Foxton: Known for her colourful and whimsical style, Foxton’s work often features animals and nature. She has created murals for several local businesses and community organizations. You can check out Danny’s 2018 interview with Claire here

Where to Find Street Art in the Illawarra

If you’re interested in exploring the Illawarra’s street art scene, there are several places you can start:

  • Wollongong CBD: The city centre is home to a variety of murals, including works by Jyiro, Foxton and Rone. 
  • Keiraville: This eclectic suburb is a popular spot for street art, with murals adorning many of its buildings and laneways.
  • Thirroul: This coastal town is home to several large-scale murals, including a stunning piece by Sally West.
  • Port Kembla: This industrial suburb has a rich history of street art, dating back to the 1980s.

Not only are our street walls graced with a lick of paint, but the local council, in conjunction with Transport NSW, allow local artists to feature their works on the traffic signal boxes across our city. The initiative works to brighten the city whilst also understanding that illegal graffiti will pop up if the boxes are left without art – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

The Future of Street Art in the Illawarra

The future of street art in the Illawarra is bright. The region’s supportive community, talented artists, and unique urban landscape provide the perfect canvas for this vibrant art form to continue to flourish. As street art gains even wider acceptance and appreciation, we can expect to see even more impressive and inspiring works in the years to come.

The Illawarra’s street art scene is a testament to the power of art to transform communities. It is a vibrant and ever-evolving tapestry of colour, creativity, and self-expression. So next time you’re in the Illawarra, take some time to explore the region’s urban art scene – you won’t be disappointed.

Jordy Woolley
dynamic | innovate | style Jordy’s journey at Molenaar and McNeice epitomises the spirit of innovation. She first joined us as an experienced property manager where she hit the ground running with her fierce drive to redefine what property management can look like. Less than 12 month...View Profile ›
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