On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne is a public art project presenting artists’ flags designed for 16 flagpoles across the City of Melbourne, and concurrently displayed in the Great Hall at NGV International. Extending Melbourne Now into the city at large, the project encourages participating artists to consider the symbolic, semantic and decorative potential of flags and commemorates and principates new conversations about specific sites of social, cultural, political and architectural relevance. Developed by Stewart Russell of Melbourne’s Spacecraft in collaboration with the NGV, the contributing artists’ flags invite us to celebrate and debate questions of place and cultural identity, communication and belonging.
On Tuesday 11 November, the first of the flags was unfurled at Princes Hill Primary School, where the school community of students, teachers, parents and friends gathered for an outdoor assembly. Princes Hill Primary is an especially fitting site in which to inaugurate the Flags for Melbourne project. In 1901, a 13 year old Princes Hill student, Ivor Evans, won a competition to contribute to the design of the Australian flag.
Following a welcome by our student hosts, and from Principal Esme Capp and visual arts coordinator Hannah Rother-Gelder, artist Helen Johnson gave an inspiring address to the students, noting that:
You have heard by now about Ivor Evans, the 13-year old boy who, as a pupil at Princes Hill School in 1901, entered a national competition to design a flag for Australia and came up with the winning design. It’s an impressive achievement for a young boy. And like Ivor Evans, all of you have the potential to do great things in your lives. But just as important as what you do as individuals, is what you do as members of a community. There is greatness in the contributions that all of you make every day to the community here at Princes Hill Primary – through sharing, looking out for one another, trusting each other, learning from and helping one another. And you should all feel proud of that.
Following her speech, Helen Johnson’s flag was raised to much cheer and celebration. It was an inspiring, beautiful moment, and full of potential…
Helen’s flag collaged together elements drawn from artworks by Princes Hill students – 449 details in all, the same number as the current student body. In addition to the flag itself, Helen offered a blank flag to the school, for students to design future flags to represent their community, identity and values, a gesture that was eagerly taken up by Esme and Hannah, who announced that a flag-making project will be the subject of future enquiry-based learning. Roger Cameron, managing director of flag-makers Evan Evans, generously offered to sponsor the production of subsequent flag(s), ensuring a profound legacy for the future consideration and production of community identity and values.
On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne is presented in the Great Hall and 16 sites across the city, with participating artists:
Brook Andrew, Peter Atkins, Jon Campbell, Aleks Danko, Kate Daw, Destiny Deacon, Matthew Griffin, Helen
Johnson, Callum Morton, Tom Nicholson, Rosslynd Piggot, S!X, Hanna Tai, Tin & Ed, John Warwicker, Annie Wu
On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne is supported by the City of Melbourne.