Art for Urban Renewal, Merinda

Driving home to Geelong on the Melbourne highway most of us would not give a second thought to a burnt-out tyre by the side of the road, a scrap of debris or a random object gone astray, but Merinda Kelly is different. She is the kind of person to stop the car, pull over and look at the tyre in the ways that most of us would not.


Where the world sees wreckage, Merinda sees opportunity. Where there are broken pieces, she sees value and a chance to re-invent and re-imagine.

An artist without traditional materials may not sound like the artists of the past, but that is a contemporary approach to art that Merinda has been exploring in her recent work.

Like many socially-engaged artists, Merinda develops situations and platforms which elicit public dialogue and test experimental ideas and actions. These may not, at first glance, look like ‘art’.

This approach to art practice provokes questions and new ways of responding creatively to urban space.

Instead of making more objects for the city, how can we work together as citizens to make more things happen in our city?

Can people be a more sustainable medium through which to express ideas, tell stories, respond to public space and re-imagine our city?

In Merinda’s recent project, Re-Tread, participants occupied an empty shop in the Geelong CBD for one week in December: an empty shop with no name, nothing to buy, sell or advertise. The goal? “Taking time out from daily activity to re-discover, and re-imagine the city in collaboration with fellow citizens.” The currency? Experiences, performative adventures around the city and an active exchange of ideas for Geelong’s urban future co-authored by project participants.

An Exhibition documenting this process is currently on show at Deakin University Waterfront Campus.

‘Tread: Socially Engaged Art in the De-industrialising City’.

3rd – 12th February 2017

Dennys Lascelles Gallery,

Deakin University Geelong Waterfront Campus

Merinda is currently involved in an exciting new project titled ‘#Vacant’, a collaboration between School of Architecture and Built Environment – Deakin University and the School of Communication and Creative Arts.

Funded by the City of Greater Geelong and Creative Arts Victoria, this project involves artists working in public spaces in the de-industrialising locale.

Artists will respond to notions of adaption, re-use and de-industrialisation in creative ways that will honour the community value and memories imbued in structures left behind by the staged processes of de-industrialisation in the City of Greater Geelong.

Merinda is also an experienced educator. She has mentored, taught and encouraged many students (myself included) at Christian College Geelong and now lectures in Arts and Education at Deakin University. You know those teachers who make the world a better place? And create a classroom full of kids who decide to study Art in Year 12? That’s this lady. She’s the teacher we all wish we had.

Those interested in participating in Merinda’s future projects may contact her on

Written by Anna Kosmanovski

Photo: Phil Hines Photography