Werribee mural stirs up debate

Teresa Vizintin, of the Wyndham Community and Education Centre, with student artists at the mural site. Photo: Joe Mastroianni

It’s the wall that has divided a community.

This graffiti-style Werribee mural on a wall at the old Hyundai site reads “Welcome to Wezza” and has received a slew of online praise and criticism in recent days.

Wyndham chief executive Kelly Grigsby said the mural at the future Cherry Street carpark was done by students from the Wyndham Community and Education Centre “who viewed the message as welcoming and inclusive”.

The students were not paid for the artwork.

Wyndham Star Weekly story published online last Friday asked residents what they thought of the mural, attracting more than 25,000 views and 150-plus comments on Facebook.

“Sanctioned vandalism”, “an embarrassment for Wyndham” and “eyesore” were among the comments posted by the naysayers.

Many residents took issue with the use of “Wezza” as slang for Werribee, with Jodi commenting: “Love the art work, but can’t we at least have either Wyndham or Werribee spelt properly?”

Others embraced the work.

Paul dubbed it “probably the best thing that’s ever happened in Werribee!!”

Trent added: “It’s better than some of the street ‘art’ that we see around Werribee and the council didn’t pay hundreds of thousands of dollars this time.”

One of the students who helped paint the mural, Shayanne, took residents to task for shaming the work.

“Wezza is not offensive – I don’t understand or see the problem with the word,” she said.

“You could show a little bit of sensitivity towards us kids, you know, the younger generation.”

Wyndham Community and Education Centre chief executive Jennie Barrera said she was disappointed by the backlash.

“The Cherry Street carpark mural was a project that saw disengaged youth work with an artist mentor to produce something with positive meaning,” Ms Barrera said.

“They understand that some people may not like the design. However, it’s disappointing the way in which some people have chosen to communicate their opinions.

“They [the students] are choosing to focus on the positive aspects of the project … it would be great if the broader community could support these young people and do the same.”

Ms Grigsby said the mural would not be a permanent feature at the carpark.

“Wyndham City councillors and members of the community have voiced their concerns about the mural and there was certainly no intent to cause offense,” Ms Grigsby said.

“The blank wall at the new carpark site was seen as an opportunity to allow a group of young people to express themselves through street art. The mural was only ever intended to be temporary and we will be looking at what to fill the space with [this] week.”

Ms Grigsby’s comments come after Wyndham councillor Glenn Goodfellow branded the graffiti-style mural inappropriate.

“We all know that public art is there to generate debate and conversation and by God it has,” Cr Goodfellow wrote on his Facebook councillor page.

“While I understand the concept of the artwork I think it is not appropriate and should never have been allowed.”