Tucked away in Carnegie, a family friendly and leafy suburb of Melbourne's inner south-west, my walking friend Dell, told me about Laz’s Lane.
Laz's Lane and adjoining Rita's Way are community laneway beautification projects created by local volunteers. These laneways have been transformed from dull, concrete alleys to vibrant, interactive street art galleries in a homely space that is full of surprises.
I met my sister Caroline (The Keeper of Rabbit Holes and AnArt4Life team member) and her partner Trish for a wander though these laneways.
Close to the primary school, Laz's Lane is a short meandering laneway packed with vibrant paintings, many by the local school children and includes two visually striking murals from artist Brigitte Dawson^, as well as a fairy box, figurine cabinets, hopscotch, a book library and ceramic art. The laneway is planted out with various shrubs to give it a more natural feel. 1
The lane is named after Laz Stark who lived in nearby Graceburn Avenue for 7 years and was the life of the street party and all round good guy.
Laz was known for mowing neighbours' nature strips, pitching in at Carnegie Primary School working bees and walking people's dogs. He also helped clear broken glass and junk from what was a grotty public lane.
After Laz died of cancer in 2018, residents decided to turn the laneway into something beautiful, which they have now named Laz's Lane in his memory.2
Neighbours Kirsten Brooks and Robynne Wilson formed a guerilla group – water-blasting the concrete path, flanking it with plants and painting fences.
They planted spider plants, agapanthus, ferns and geraniums from their own gardens and a Little Library was installed.
Today, regular weeding sessions are held here; lemons, chillies and artichokes are free for the taking; and Ms Brooks curates a mailbox to the fairies (one bold child’s request to meet them was politely evaded).2
Mr Stark's partner of 20 years, Ian Tatam, said he would have really loved it.
I love it. I get very emotional. I come down quite frequently and wander through, when I’m thinking about him.
Across the street the delights continue in Rita's Way - the initiative of Italian-Australian artist Rita Santucci who, noticed some children walking through a dilapidated alley to get to Carnegie Primary School.
As soon as she began working on it, the idea of revitalising the alley spread like a wildfire and soon her neighbours came on board.
With the help of volunteers, the fences alongside the alley were painted fresh, and a Facebook page was created to ask the community for art contributions.
The coronavirus pandemic this year has slowed down the progress of the project, but she says it is a nice distraction from COVID-19.3
Watch this AnArt4Life video made during our visit to to Laz's Lane and Rita's Way:
I am sure you agree with the last line of Sherryn Danaher's poem (which is transcribed in full at the end of this post):
^ Brigitte Dawson is a mixed media artist located in regional Victoria, focused on creation and creative collaboration. To learn more about Brigitte and her artworks, clock on the link below.
Transcript of Sherryn Danaher's poem:
A poem for all who have created and continue to play a part in developing the Carnegie Community Laneway Garden and Gallery
Robynne Robynne Wilson Wilson, not a name to forget,
Had a Eureka moment, inspiration followed by sweat
‘Neighbours, Neighbours’ she said to the locals
‘Neighbours’ she said, said she, “with a wee bit of slog
You’ll each be a cog in our laneway to meet and walk free’
There was Laz, then came Phil, Rita fast got on board,
Kirsten added her time, all wholly in accord
They hatched a plan, original and simply sublime
Agapanthus were planted, locals each brought a gift,
Cuttings from their gardens to ignite a total facelift
En route to shops and school,
Walkers gasp as donated art, mosaic, origami, acrylic and oil, artists,
children all play a part
Winning a community grant, with prize money hot in hand,
they splashed it on a book exchange, pillar box red, sitting proud upon its stand
fairy boxes, gambling dens, secret doors and misspelling,
Just a few surprises to make the walk compelling
Laz’s Lane holds events and parties, locals skip down its path in all weather,
Alongside curious tourists, their all in it together!
When the traffic gets frenetic, when life’s sending you insane, replace crazy with aesthetic, take a stroll down Laz’s Lane
Sherryn Danaher November 2019