Words by Kate Bittar
The Culture Scouts x Swatch Watch team met on a particularly balmy Newtown night, all dressed in near stifling post-work attire, which made for a uniquely business casual group of undercover creatives. Our route, as always, was curated by the vibrant mind and author of Street Art of the Inner West, Melinda Vassalo. The tour was especially unique; each member was traversing the endless gallery in the streets of Newtown, drinking a few Young Henrys schooners from the local brewery, and receiving a live art and chat session from artist Jamie Preisz at The Commune - all as a perk from their premium membership to Swatch Watch Australia. Without the prompt from their Swatch Watch membership benefits, most of the tour-goers probably would not have sought out a 'touristy' experience like a walking tour on their own terms. Each member was local to the Inner West, yet lived just out of the way of Newtown, admittedly enough of a distance out of the way for their experience to be a surprisingly novel one.
We started, as always, in the beating heart of Newtown - the Hub, which sits at the end of Australia Street and acts as a door to the illustrated laneways that crawl around it. Melinda led the way through aisles of paste-ups, stencilled motifs and sculptural works all affixed to the streets. She revealed some signifiers of solidarity only known to those 'inside' the street-art world, like the painted masks that point to good areas of the street for other artists to use as canvas, or the roughly painted grids which allow individual artists a small space to contribute toward a collaborative piece in the making.
As clear in a few well chosen words by Swatch Watch V.I.P. Andrew Cheung, Melinda
"provided some interesting insight to the very vibrant and ever changing street art culture in Sydney's inner west [...], an enjoyable and memorable experience."
Street art exists in a space of condensed talent, it is literally surrounded by its collaborators and competitors. Fittingly, our night ended in the collective working space for creatives in Sydney, The Commune. Local artist, Jamie Preisz, completed a work on board before our eyes while giving generous insight into hisartistry in the meantime - a literal and notional expression of creative process.
While every member of the tour was gifted a unique Swatch Watch of their own, it was the youngest member and budding artist, Ocean, that was gifted Jamie's resulting piece. Street Art is innovative because it has to be - though it is not afforded with the usual signifiers of credibility (a canvas, a frame, a cold gallery), its overwhelming ability to give life to a space surely proves its value.