Meet Alex Byrne & Tina Barahanos, part of our Celebrating Neighbourhood Good project
Here at Westpoint we’re Celebrating Neighbourhood Good. We’re proud of our community, and the people working in it to help others. That’s why we’re sharing their stories with you.
Published 18 January

Here at Westpoint we’re celebrating Neighbourhood Good. We’re proud of our community, and the people working within it to help others. In our neighbourhood, people are creating positive change every day, making lives better, taking care of those in need and creating a place where we all feel safe and welcome. That’s why we’re sharing their stories with you – to show you that there is so much good in our community, and to say how proud we are to be a part of it. Because ours is a place for everyone, where our community comes together.

Meet Alex Byrne and Tina Barahanos, two artists involved with Blacktown City Council and BlacktownArt’s Laneway Art Project.

Both are established artists in the area and their piece entitled City Shift is a sculptural installation in Mackenzie Walkway. The entire project, called It’s Our Thing, explores and celebrates hip hop culture in the community as it brings art to the streets of Blacktown.

To begin with, the pair saw the project advertised, and thought it would be a great opportunity to collaborate on something locally.

“The project that council and BlacktownArts have put together is Part III of a project that's based around hip-hop culture in Western Sydney,” says Alex. “They chose a number of different artists, and we were very fortunate to be selected. They’re extending this public artwork in laneways in the Blacktown CBD to start reinvigorating spaces, and to try and work out ways to change those spaces and the kinds of activity that happens in them.”

And change them they have, with artworks totally transforming the laneways around the city – something great for both the LGA and the arts community.

“As creative practitioners,” says Tina, “it's great to be able to have these professional opportunities in your local area because often you have to go further afield to get involved in public art projects. So, it's been wonderful for us and for other artists in the community to see these transformations happening around Blacktown that are also inclusive of artwork.”

Adds Alex, “This an ongoing thing that the Blacktown City Council intends to do as the city transforms – they're very keen to incorporate public art into the city as it changes and develops over the coming years.”

Tina agrees. “Blacktown City Council are extremely supportive of the arts, and of community-based art.”

For talented and experienced artists like Alex and Tina, this particular community project has been a timely chance to collaborate with musicians from the Blacktown area.

“There's a really strong hip-hop scene in Western Sydney,” enthuses Alex. “Some fabulous artists who are musicians, who are emerging in that scene and getting global recognition for the work that they're doing. It's wonderful to be able to experience their work and able to be inspired by that to make our own work.”

Both say they also feel blessed to have connected with the team at BlacktownArts. “The projects that they run, which are connecting with community all over the Blacktown local government area and beyond, are very welcoming. It really is quite a joy to be involved,” says Alex. “In terms of opportunities to connect, the Arts Centre does really fabulous things.”

The project has also reinforced the fact that art can work to connect community in many ways.

“I think that people can connect around artworks in a way that's different to say the written form or dialogue because it provides a different kind of stimulus around issues that can be inspiring or even challenging for us to actually talk about in the community,” says Alex. “It can be easier for people to digest, or easier for people to learn from or experience. I think it's a way to communicate issues that are important to us all and can help us grow our community in a good way.”

Adds Tina, “I think that art starts conversations, it starts dialogue. It puts out different views, different ideas, different experiences and I think it gets people connecting with one another”

For both of them art is all about “connection, understanding and learning”, which they see playing a huge part in the spirit of the Blacktown community.

“We're lucky that our community is so diverse, there's just so much we can learn from each other if we listen,” says Alex.

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Published on 26 April, 2021