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Art project puts the spotlight on youth homelessness

by Rosanna Galvin

Project Tag on North TerraceA design by two UniSA architecture students was brought to life last month with the launch of Project Tag, an art installation created to raise awareness of youth homelessness in the Adelaide CBD.

The project, a collaboration between UniSA students, street artists, the Integrated Design Commission and the Service to Youth Council, was designed by students Ellen Buttrose and John Pagnozzi as part of last year’s youth homelessness awareness competition Reality Checkpoint. The competition-winning entry explored ways the community could engage in dialogue about youth homelessness within a public space.

The result was an eye-catching 16m x 8m x 6m mural on North Terrace, which was officially opened by Minister for Youth Ian Hunter on April 18 to coincide with National Youth Homelessness Matters Day.

The artwork was developed from workshops with young clients from the Service to Youth Council, who worked together with UniSA art students to turn their ideas into art under the guidance of experienced street artist Jason Koen.

Ellen, who is studying a Master of Architecture, said the project was created to start a discussion about youth homelessness within the community using a personal and inclusive approach.

“As part of the project we spent a lot of time thinking about how the design of the installation could best start a conversation about youth homelessness but a conversation that was very inclusive of young people themselves,” Ellen said.

“There is a great deal of stigma attached to homelessness but we wanted to look at the issue in a more personal way. We wanted to take it out of the context of an ‘issue’ and bring it back to the point where we acknowledge that homelessness happens to people, it does not define them.”

The interactive installation, which was funded in kind by Jamie McClurg, director of Commercial and General, encourages people to think differently about homelessness through the unfinished sentence “I need a place that…”. The sentence features prominently in the installation, including a large blackboard segment where the general public can participate by finishing the sentence with their own ideas of what a place and home mean to them.

An estimated 2900 young people find themselves homeless each night in Adelaide. Their homelessness is often invisible as many are not sleeping rough but instead staying on the sofas of friends and family or in shelters.

Project Tag brings homelessness out into the open, putting the issue on the map, onto our streetscape and into our consciousness.

For UniSA Foundation Studies student Lorenzo Kirk, who contributed to the project, the issue of homelessness is of personal importance as he unexpectedly became homeless for several months.

Lorenzo hopes that Project Tag will give the public a better understanding of the issues youth face.

“I think the installation is an opportunity for people to get a better understanding of youth issues and I hope it will lead to people thinking about the problem more deeply and even motivate them to help out,” Lorenzo said.

Located at 199 North Terrace opposite the State Library, the temporary installation ran from April 18 to May 7 and offered an interactive space where the public actively contributed to the conversation about homelessness.

To see the results and find out more about Project Tag, click here.