Celebrate Melbourne

This activity involves using found materials to create a playful commemorative ‘trophy’ to celebrate Melbourne. This activity could be done in pairs or a small group.
It would be useful preparation for this activity to observe artworks in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne that have been made to celebrate or commemorate individuals or events or objects, for example, La Trobe Centrepiece, Jug commemorating John Batman, Centenary birthday cake clock, Melbourne centrepiece, The German Triumphal arch in Melbourne. Margaret Dodd’s Grassed Holden in the NGV Collection Story – Identity is an example of a more contemporary and playful work that celebrates a cultural icon.

  • Construct the basic form for your trophy using cardboard and found objects such as plastic containers.
  • Embellish your commemorative trophy with decorative elements. These could also be made from cardboard, found objects or modelling clay. Use your imagination.
  • The decorative elements, and even the basic form of your trophy, could reference aspects of the city of Melbourne (history, architecture, landmarks, characters). The whole should create a visually pleasing and interesting design.
  • Paint your trophy to give it visual impact. Metallic paint could be used to provide a reference to traditional trophies, or you may wish to use colour to give your trophy a contemporary feel.

Your view of Melbourne

This activity involves creating an artwork inspired by Melbourne using a particular framework as a starting point for researching, planning and making the artwork. The artwork can be made in a medium of your choice. It might be a single artwork or a series of artworks.

It would be useful preparation for this activity to familiarise yourself with Melbourne, if possible by visiting the city. Research the city’s history, landmarks, character, atmosphere, stories and daily life. The activities and resources listed in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne/Learning activities/Explore will help get you started.

It would also be useful to discuss the different frameworks listed below and consider how they could be related to a range of views of Melbourne included in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne.

  • As you do your research about the city, compile a list of resources related to aspects of the city that interest you. These resources might include photographs, drawings, and notes that you might want to reference for creating ‘your view of Melbourne’.
  • Consider the following frameworks that each represent a different focus for artmaking. Select the framework that most closely reflects your interest in Melbourne. Use this as a starting point to plan and make ‘your view of Melbourne’. Other frameworks may also be used as you develop your ideas. For example, the formal framework, which focuses strongly on using visual elements and forms to create visual effects or communicate ideas, will have a role to play in all artworks.

A personal framework

    • Are there aspects of the city or city life that have personal significance for you? Perhaps a place you remember from childhood, or a feature of the city or city life that evokes a strong feeling from you. It might be the pristine surfaces and polished glamour that dominate the cosmetic sections of major department stores, the routine of peak-hour commuting in and out of the city, or the gritty reality of behind-the-scenes Melbourne found in laneways.
    • Create an artwork that conveys your personal observations and feelings about the aspect of the city or city life that interests you. Consider how you will use art and design elements and materials to convey your feelings and personal response to the subject.

A formal framework

    • Did you observe visual forms or structures or effects in the city that you found interesting? How could these forms, structures or effects be used as the inspiration for an artwork? For example, could the grid-like structure of the city streets or the dominant tones and colours in the city buildings be used to create an interesting composition for a painting? Perhaps there are interesting visual patterns in tiny details of the city, or high vantage points that could be used to create a series of photographs.
    • Create an artwork inspired by visual forms, structures or effects observed in the city. Consider how you will use art and design elements and materials to create an interesting composition.

A cultural framework

    • What is distinctive about the city for you? The people, fashion, cafes, buildings, streets, laneways, daily routines, special events? How can this aspect of the city be conveyed in an artwork? For example, a series of photographs or drawings documenting city workers, the market, shoppers or sub-cultures.
    • Create an artwork that captures something of the distinctive life and culture of the city. Consider how you will use art and design elements and materials to create an engaging representation of this aspect of the city.

A contemporary framework

    • Are there contemporary issues or ideas that are important to you and shape the way that you see the city? For example, you may be concerned about how large chain stores are impacting the unique character of the city, or you may want to explore the history of the city from the perspective of a particular group. How might you create an artwork that comments on these ideas and issues? Consider the different strategies that contemporary artists have used to engage with ideas and issues through art. These include referencing existing images or forms in order to present new perspectives or ways of seeing, or creating layered works incorporating found elements or text.
    • Create an artwork that explores a contemporary issue or idea. Consider how you can use art or design elements and materials to comment on these ideas or issues.

Create a class display of the finished results. What different perspective on Melbourne does each work present? Reflect on the making of your own view of Melbourne. How did the framework that you started with link with your particular interest in the city? What other frameworks were important in the process of making your work?


A digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’

Collections and exhibitions of artworks play an important role in society in communicating ideas and telling stories. This activity involves creating a digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’ of artworks, using artworks from NGV Collection online, to explore a particular aspect of the landscape and environment. This activity could be done individually, in pairs or in a group.

  1. An exhibition concept

View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne. Based on these artworks, identify a theme related to the landscape and environment that interests you, or start with one of the themes below as the concept for your exhibition:

    • Perspectives on Melbourne
    • Melbourne – then and now
    • Melbourne landmarks
    • Melbourne celebrates
  1. Select artworks
    • Make a selection of at least six artworks that you believe tell a story or communicate important ideas related to your exhibition concept. At least four of these artworks must be from the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne, but you might source artworks from other NGV Collection Stories or NGV Collection online
    • Print or save a digital copy of these artworks for display in your digital, poster or model exhibition. (Remember artworks are protected by copyright law, which means you can use images of artworks for educational/review purposes but not for publication display.)
  2. Create an exhibition
    • Create your digital, poster or model exhibition. A digital exhibition could be a presentation in PowerPoint, an electronic whiteboard display, or some other digital format. Alternatively, you can make a poster or a three-dimensional model to ‘exhibit’ your artworks (see the three-dimensional model used by NGV curators and exhibition designers for planning the exhibition John Brack.
    • When you are creating your digital, poster or model exhibition consider how to most effectively place or group artworks in your exhibition to tell a story and communicate ideas. For example, will the artworks be displayed chronologically or grouped according to themes or ideas?
    • Your digital, poster or model exhibition should include labels for all the artworks listing the artist’s name, title, date, media, and size of the artwork.
    • Your exhibition should have an interesting title, and perhaps a subtitle, to give viewers an idea of what to expect.
  3. Engage viewers with the exhibition story and ideas

Your exhibition should also include some support material to further engage viewers with the exhibition story or ideas. This could take the form of an exhibition brochure introducing the exhibition, an audio guide, and/or a series of extended labels.

  1. Present and reflect
    • Take the class on a ‘tour’ of your exhibition, explaining your selection and display of artwork and supporting material, and how you believe this engages people with a story and ideas related to Melbourne.
    • What challenges did you encounter in telling a story or communicating ideas related to Melbourne through artworks in an exhibition?


Information for teachers

The following learning activities related to the theme of Melbourne support:

  • The learning focus and standards in Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 6 for:
    • Discipline-based learning in The Arts, Humanities and English
    • Interdisciplinary learning in Communication, Thinking Processes
    • Physical, Personal and Social Learning in Civics and Citizenship, Personal Learning
  • The areas of study and learning outcomes in Victorian Certificate of Education studies:
    • Art
    • Studio Arts
    • English
    • History

Teachers are encouraged to select and adapt the learning activities to suit the specific level and learning requirements of their students.

Shaping the history and character of Melbourne

  1. In small groups investigate and discuss the history of Melbourne, listing at least 10 key events and/or individuals that you believe have contributed to the history and character of the city. You can select up to six events/individuals from the following list as a starting point:

Settlement of the area now known as Melbourne
The official naming of Melbourne
Proclamation of the colony of Victoria
Discovery of gold near Ballarat
The International Exhibition of 1880
Immigration Restriction Act 1901
First steam train
First tram
Opening of Luna Park
First World War
Second World War
Centenary of Melbourne
Manufacture of first Holden car in Melbourne
Opening of Chadstone Shopping Centre
William Barak
John Batman
John Fawkner
Charles La Trobe
Dame Nellie Melba

    • Discuss why you consider each of the events/characters you have selected/suggested as important to the history and character of the city.
    • Compare the lists that different groups have compiled.
    • Suggest reasons for the similarities and differences in the lists.
  1. Create a collaborative illustrated timeline recording the key dates related to events/individuals in the lists compiled by the class. Where possible include a visual image, such as a photograph or a reproduction of an artwork, to illustrate each event/individual referenced on the timeline. You can use images from the NGV Collection story – Melbourne or search by keywords in NGV Collection online

Resources for creating a digital timeline

  1. What role do you believe the visual arts play in recording or constructing the history of a city such as Melbourne?

Melbourne locations and landmarks

  1. The following locations and landmarks all feature in artworks included in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne.
    • Locate each of these landmarks/locations on a map of Melbourne.
    • Investigate/discuss what is significant about each landmark/location for Melbourne.
    • Find an artwork that relates to each of these locations/landmarks. Explain the relationship between this artwork and the landmark/location.

Luna Park
Princes Bridge
Royal Botanic Gardens
Princess Theatre
Charles Summers’s Burke and Wills memorial statue
Collins Street
Swanston Street
The Arts Centre
St Kilda Road
Melbourne Cricket Ground
Le Louvre
Grosvenor Chambers
Port Phillip Bay
Fitzroy Gardens
Flinders Street Station
Box Hill
St Kilda

Further research on Melbourne

‘Coranderrk’, Mission Voices website (Koorie Heritage Trust, State Library of Victoria and ABC online)

History of Melbourne overview and resources (Melbourne City Council)

History of Melbourne overview and resources (What’s on Melbourne)

Yarra Healing – Towards reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, includes resources related to William Barak, Birrarung (Yarra River), The Kulin Nation, Wurundjeri, Coranderrk (Catholic Education Office)


Australian Impressionism

John Brack

Howard Arkley

Remembering Barak

Sidney Nolan

VCE English Contexts


Discover Melbourne through art
This activity involves observing, analysing, describing, researching and interpreting an artwork, then making a creative response to the artwork to share with others.

  1. Select an artworkView the artworks and read the stories in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne. Select the artwork that interests you the most in relation to the theme of Melbourne.
    • Record the details of the artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
    • What initially caught your interest about this artwork?
  2. Create a sketchObserve then record the main structure of the artwork in a quick drawing (15 minutes maximum). Focus on the overall structure or composition of the artwork, rather than small details. You may wish to annotate your drawing with words or notes to highlight important features.
  3. Describe and analyse the artwork
    • What is the subject matter and how is it represented?
    • Which art elements (for example, colour, line, shape, tone, form and texture) and design principles (for example, focal point, space, rhythm, variety, unity, balance) are most important in the artwork and what visual effects do they create?
    • What materials and techniques are used to make the artwork? How are they used? List four steps you think the artist may have taken to make this artwork.
  4. Research the artwork
    • Identify and note at least three information sources that help your understanding of this artwork. Starting points may include:
      NGV Collection Stories
      Books, exhibition catalogues or art journals from your school, or public library
    • List five interesting facts that you learned from your research and explain what each has added to your understanding of this work.
  5. Interpret
    • Is this artwork based on the artist’s experience or observation of an aspect of Melbourne? Is this important? Explain.
    • What feelings, moods, ideas or meanings does the artist communicate to you about Melbourne in this the artwork?
    • What is it about the artwork that suggests these feelings, moods or ideas?
    • Suggest what might have inspired the artist to make this artwork.
  6. View the originalVisit the National Gallery of Victoria to view the original artwork (check first that it is currently on display). How is the artwork similar/different to how you imagined it from the reproduction?
  7. A creative presentationProduce a short creative presentation about this artwork for your classmates (three minutes maximum). Your presentation should include at least five researched facts about the artwork. It should also aim to be lively and engaging. It may comprise or include:
    • A role play – for example the artist making the work, an art critic or tour guide explaining the work
    • An art review for the radio or the newspaper, or a poem or narrative, which might be presented dramatically as a reading
    • An art review or documentary-style presentation for TV or online media, which might be presented as a short video
    • A dance or musical performance or poem inspired by the artwork
    • A visual/audio presentation (for example, PowerPoint, VoiceThread), which includes relevant background information about the artist or artwork
    • A computer game or animation that brings the artwork ‘alive’

Comparative viewpoints

  1. View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Melbourne.
    • Identify two artworks that you believe make an interesting comparison in how they represent or respond to Melbourne. (for example, an historical and a contemporary view of Melbourne, representations of the same subject in different styles).
    • Record the details of each artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
  2. What ideas does each artwork communicate about Melbourne? How are these ideas communicated in each artwork?
  3. Explain why you believe these artworks make an interesting comparison in how the artists represent or respond to Melbourne.