Melbourne is a highly creative city that recognises the role creativity plays in expressing our identity, creating a sense of belonging and transforming our economy.

The expiry of the City of Melbourne’s Arts Strategy 2014–17 gave us an opportunity to take a new look at creativity, bearing in mind international trends and competitive city positioning.

Our new strategy allows us to harness the full potential of creativity in the city by integrating it into everything we do, not as an add-on but right at the start, when contemplating the changes and challenges ahead of us.

We will engage creative practitioners of all kinds to work with subject experts on city opportunities and challenges that relate to the nine goals Melburnians have set for their city.

Through this approach, Melbourne will draw on the full potential of its extraordinary creative community to benefit all who live, work and visit here.

Have a read of our draft Creative Strategy and frequently asked questions.

The draft Creative Strategy

The Strategy contends that creative people are central to helping Melbourne be the very best city that it can be for everybody. It proposes that Melbourne works with creative people of all kinds on city challenges or opportunities that relate to the nine goals Melburnians have set for their city through the Future Melbourne Community Plan.

After reviewing the extensive consultation that took place as part of the most recent Future Melbourne refresh, we returned to the hundreds of comments contributed by the people of Melbourne that informed the Creative Melbourne goal.

We found that most of the suggestions will be covered by our existing programs, with the exception of involving creative people more in the challenges facing the city. We also adopted all nine goals from the community’s Future Melbourne plan as the pillars around which we will select city challenges to work on.

We tested our thinking with creative practitioners and Aboriginal leaders and artists, and are now opening our consultation to everyone.

From First Nations people and those who study ancient civilizations we know that throughout history creative people have always helped others understand and draw meaning from the world around them. Creativity is a behaviour; its practice takes many forms. It allows people to explore ideas, connect with one another and participate in conversations larger than themselves. It stimulates ideas, insight and delight and enriches existence. It connects us to our past, to today and leads the way to a shared future.

To demonstrate seminal, inclusive and expansive creativity in action, the City of Melbourne has collected examples from far afield and close to home that relate to the goals set out in Future Melbourne, a community plan that sets out the long term aspirations of Melburnians. These case studies, some of which are referenced below, showcase many creative disciplines, from architecture to performance art and poetry.

A creative city
Traditionally museums are housed in impressive buildings in significant locations that require people to travel distances to visit. Berlin’s Public Art Lab flipped this experience by inviting artists to create mobile museums that could travel to their audiences. The resulting mini museums, which travelled between cities, transformed the atmosphere of each space in which they were located and made readily available to all citizens the assets they own.

A prosperous city
The transformation of an obsolete elevated train line in New York into an international tourism attraction more than 2km long is known the world over as a demonstration of the power of creativity and community engagement to drive urban renewal and prosperity.

A deliberative city
The Queen Victoria Market precinct is much loved by Melburnians and opinions are divided on its future direction. Rather than hide from contentious perspectives, in 2016, as part of the Council’s Biennial Lab program, artists built a 24-hour radio station and for 9000 minutes everything they ate, drank, wore, discussed or interviewed was sourced at the market.

A city managing change
In 2015 the Turner Prize, Europe’s most prestigious contemporary visual art award, was bestowed on Assemble, a collective of mainly architects, for their Granby Four Streets urban regeneration project. Judges praised them for using art, design and architecture to offer alternative models to how societies can work and for showing how artistic practice can shape urgent issues.

A city that cares for its environment
Refuge is a five-year City of Melbourne project – led by artists, working with emergency management experts and communities – that explores and builds resilience in the face of climate disasters such as floods, heatwaves and pandemics. Through annual simulated emergencies, all involved look deeply at the implications and consider with new insight how cities plan for the future.

A city for people
Between 2001 and 2008 the City of Melbourne invited artists to develop temporary works of art responding to a laneway of their choosing. The enormously successful Laneway Commissions program is now credited with playing a significant role in the revival of central Melbourne. Today laneway culture is as synonymous with Melbourne life as a great cup of coffee.

Putting our approach into practice

The City of Melbourne recently selected three city challenges and matched them with multi-disciplinary teams of creative practitioners to test the approach of the Creative Strategy.

The Open City

Embrace the Aboriginal seasons – specifically Waring (Wombat) Season when wombats emerge from their burrows to bask in the winter sun – by opening the city, its cultural organisations and experiences and its public realm for everybody in Melbourne across four weeks in the middle of the year.

A cloak circles the city, making all artistic and cultural experiences, indoor and outdoor, free to all. People from Melbourne’s many and varied communities are transported into the city to participate and engage with activities that are physically and emotionally inclusive, welcoming and warm.

Creative practitioners
Madeleine Flynn, Paola Balla, Tristan Meecham, Jennifer Hector and Sophia Brous.

Innovation Island / Edgelands

A place dedicated to experimentation, where rules are re-thought and re-written and small craft-based manufacturing, education and community co-exist and interact with large industry for the benefit of all.

In the short term, enticing new projects and transport options draw in people to experience the uniqueness of the site and its rhythms. Over time, signature developments realise the area’s potential, bringing together diverse communities, industries and activities.

Creative practitioners
Timothy Moore, Joel Stern, Shelley Lassica, James Hillier and Jessica Wilson.

Slow Streets

The little streets are slowed down and opened up to celebrate the things Melburnians hold dear and to showcase our city’s future. Initially, activations and interventions demonstrate how reimagining and sharing our little streets can build vibrant and uniquely Melbourne inner-urban communities and ecosystems. Over time, core infrastructure decisions allow the little streets to express the city’s ambition to be a city for people that is sustainable, prosperous, creative and much more.

Creative practitioners
Gideon Obarzanek, Sophia Brous, Michaela Webb, Timothy Moore and Ross Harding.