The organisers of a series of street art and culture activities in North Richmond hope they are planting the seeds of an urban renewal that will take root and gradually grow in the area.
Operating under the Victoria Street Alive! (VSA!) banner, with funding from the state government's North Richmond precinct renewal scheme, in the last month they have organised a maker's market that attracted 450 people, and helped stage a street party and photography exhibition which drew a crowd of 300.
Following the successful April 10 market at Abbots Yard in Victoria St, another is planned there on June 19, while next month a series of photographic workshops for kids will culminate in metre-high prints of their pictures being pasted up around the neighbourhood.
"We've got a fabulous design artist, Gustavo Morales, who lectures at RMIT," says Judy Ryan, one of VSA!'s two main organisers. "He's running four workshops in Victoria St for kids from the local primary schools and Richmond High School, and an online one for young people from the housing estate."
The idea of the project is, through the posters, to give young people, who ordinarily don't have one, a voice and presence in the streetscape.
Another VSA! arts event in June is still on the drawing board.
Inspired by a range of Australian and international examples of urban renewal, Ryan and co-founder Greg Hordacre have been working for several years to cultivate links and ideas to build back community and economic activity in the Victoria St precinct.
The pair shares a belief with a large pool of local supporters that better amenity will improve safety and, generally, people's lives in North Richmond, which has been impacted by social and economic problems, generational change and a bad reputation.
"We really love our community and want to show people how great it can be," Hordacre says.
"And by bringing resilience back into the street, by bringing activity, connectedness and all those sorts of things, you're going to bring the community together and really give them a foundation for enjoying the area they're living in."
Ryan describes the neighbourhood as "a universal, cosmopolitan area with people from every continent and from across the spectrum" in terms of age, income and occupation.
"I think when you look at it under a lens, the cohesion and variety and excitement is remarkable."
After receiving the 2021 grant for VSA! - an offshoot of the Residents for Victoria St Drug Solutions Association - Ryan and Hordacre started planning for their "street activation" events last year.
Like so many others, they were forced to postpone their plans, with the events only now hitting the streets.
Despite public life still "coming out of hibernation", the response so far has been positive, Ryan says.
"The feedback we're getting from people is, 'It's great to be here, it's so nice to come down the street on a Sunday afternoon and have this happening, because normally it just would be dead'".
It's early days for VSA! and its mission of kickstarting a renewal of business activity and interest in the Victoria St precinct, but Hordacre and Ryan are hopeful of continuing it.
"We've built a lot of momentum and we've got a lot of goodwill, and we've got a lot of interest and a lot of evidence that this really works and has a positive impact on our community," Hordacre says.
"So we would really like to keep this ball rolling."