2022 Melbourne Art Trams : FAQs with Curator Jarra Karalinar Steel

Tue 18 January

To help with your Melbourne Arts Trams submission, our 2022 curator Jarra Karalinar Steel is here to answer your burning questions.

Melbourne's Art Trams are back in 2022, with another line-up of First Peoples artists responding to this year's theme, “Unapologetically Blak”. With submissions open until Sunday 23 January, the 2022 Melbourne Art Trams curator (and 2021 artist Jarra Karalinar Steel has answered some of your frequently asked questions. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

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Jara Karalinar Steel: Hi all, my name is Jarra Karalinar Steel. I am the Melbourne Art Tram curator for RISING festival 2022.

This year's theme is “Unapologetically Blak”, and I'm really excited to see what artists come up with for this theme. I'm very excited to be a part of the RISING Art Trams and curating it this year.

As last year, I was fortunate enough to have my artwork selected for the 2021 trams, thanks to the amazing work of the curator, Kimberley Moulton. So I'm gonna answer some questions that we've been asked and hopefully they can clarify some things to help you with your application.

Question: “Can I collaborate with elders, my aunts, my uncles, my nephews and nieces, cousins?”

JKS: Yes, yes, you can, just as long as they also meet the criteria, it is perfectly fine. We had some amazing collaborations last year and I would love to see some new ones, especially with elders collaborating with young ones and passing on stories and sharing art. I think that's really special.

Q: “Which format should I be using to create my designs if I am a digital artist?”

JKS: So you wanna create vector files basically. So it is highly suggested that you use a program like Illustrator. Illustrator is great, because it's not resolution dependent. Basically, it means that you can scale it up to any size without losing the detail or distorting the image. If you are working in Photoshop, you can import your Photoshop files into Illustrator. So don't worry about that.

You also wanna make sure that your DPI is at least a minimum of 400 and a maximum of 600. An example of what the final art resolution would be for a D2 tram: It would be 20,000 to 35,000 pixels wide with a resolution of 400.

Q: “What if I don't have Photoshop?”

JKS: We are not requiring any artists to have these digital skills. You don't have to be a digital artist to apply for this Art Tram. You can be a painter, photographer, any other kind of artist, just as long as we can take your work and put it on a tram. We will provide a photographer who will be able to take high-resolution photos of your tram art. So don't worry about that. And our graphic artists will work with you to put together the work on a tram format.

Q: “So what will the graphic designer be able to provide?”

JKS: So once you're selected for the Art Tram, we will have a graphic designer on-hand to help stitch together your artwork onto an Art Tram template. And then they are also able to make sure that everything is at the highest resolution and follow it up until print. So making sure that everything is done perfectly. They are also able to offer advice on technical issues with the Adobe software. And if you require a colour book, to make sure that your colours are right, because sometimes what we create on a computer might not print out the way that we imagine it. So a colour book from example, Pantone has amazing colour books, that's what we used. We had Kate came over and helped me make sure that the colours were perfect for the print job.

Q: “What sort of colours can I use?”

JKS: So if you're talking about digital art, please make sure that you are working in CMYK. If you have already started and you're working in RBG, don't worry as long as you can transfer it and update it later as CMYK, that should be fine. The reason it's CMYK, is because that is what the printer is, and we wouldn't want you to be disappointed that your bright hot pink doesn't translate to a beautiful, bright, hot pink. Sometimes they come out a bit mauve. When it comes to other things like making sure that the colours aren't too dark, and it's not just a black tram, there are rules around what can be seen on a tram in traffic. There are a lot of examples of this in the EOI. So I just suggest you read it.

Q: “Can I use my photography?”

JKS: Yes, you can. Just, as long as you take those images at the highest resolution, and please remember that the Art Tram, an example of the Art Tram's resolution will be a D2 is around 20,000 and 35,000 pixels wide with a DPI of 400. So as long as your photography meets that, then it should be okay. And we can always do number of prints that pieced together, as long as it meets the theme.

Q: “Can I choose the tram that my artwork's gonna be on?”

JKS: Sadly, no, I'm so sorry. Look, I get it. I wanted the 16, because it came past my house. I wanted to see it every day. Luckily enough, it wasn't, I got, now I get to see Aunty Zeta's tram on a regular. So yeah, don't get your hopes up on a particular tram that you want. We will work out which tram works with your artwork and whatever that will be, it will be perfect. All of the trams do go through the city. So you'll always get a chance to see it easily if you live in the local area, if not, we'll have lots of photos for you, I am sure.

Q: “Can I use an older artwork?”

JKS: As much as I would love to see as much new artwork as possible, I am more than happy to see some work that you're very proud of, that you think fit the theme that you wanna showcase on a tram. I think that there wouldn't be a problem with that at all.

Q: “Does my idea have to be completed to submit an application?”

JKS: So because of the tight turnaround in getting the trams onto the tram printed and then onto the tracks, having your tram as completed as possible is really important. But if you have an idea and it's really strong and you have bits and pieces, you need to make sure that you have a layout, a plan, that I can see that will show me that you are able to meet each target, to complete your tram on time, to be printed and sent out on the track. So that is fine, but just be aware that it is, we just want to make sure that you're able to put out your work.

Q: “Can I continue to work and finalise my design after I get selected?”

JKS: Yes, so you can work with myself and the graphic designer to make sure that your work is finalised and ready for production. You need to make sure that you're available for two weeks during February to do this.

Q: “Can my organisation submit artwork for the Art Tram?”

JKS: I think that that would be okay as long as your organisation is a creative arts organisation, or if you have a brand that is a creative arts. I also think that it is important that it is 100% owned and run by First Nations People, because I think that this is set up for artists to make sure that they get money back into themselves and the community.

Q: “Can I submit more than one work?”

JKS: I think that that is okay. You might want to submit if the works are different. Well, as long as everything meets the theme, that's fine. But if it is each work has a different story, I think, try to make it a new application. So you can apply more than one time. If it is multiple files, please keep it to a minimum, and yeah, it should be okay.

JKS on accessibility: So some questions came up about accessibility. And I think that is a really important question to ask within the arts.

Rising is working very hard to make sure that this is an accessible event and the Art Tram application process is as accessible as possible. Now we were on holidays over the Christmas break. So you, might've not been able to give us a call, but our emails are open we're back at it now. And there will be an email and a phone number. I'm sure we'll have a paste it here, it will be somewhere on these videos. Also, I am more than happy for community to reach out to me through the DMs on Instagram as well. A few people, a few artists have reached out and they found it very helpful, the advice that I gave them.

So if you have any accessibility issues around submitting your work, maybe you want to record a video of you talking about your idea rather than writing it. I think that that is a valid way of submitting an application and we can help you through that. So please reach out if you have accessibility issues. We want to make sure that you are able to submit an artwork and be a part of this project, because it's very important to myself and to RISING festival.

JKS closing thoughts: I hope this answers a lot of the questions that you might be having around submitting your Art Tram idea. I am so excited to see all your ideas. Please do not feel ashamed to submit anything. You never know where it will lead to and it is really important that you just submit. I know personally, I was just beating myself up thinking, ”I'm not gonna get it, I'm not good enough”, and I pushed through that and I submitted it anyway and I think that that is really important to do, and it's a really important thing to learn as an artist.

So some key things that I'm looking for when I'm assessing people's applications. One thing, does this artwork meet the theme? Is the idea taking in consideration the theme that I set out in the EOI, which is “Unapologetically Blak”? If you wanna know more about the theme, you can check it out on the RISING EOIs for the Art Tram 2022. I can make another video at another time to discuss that if you want me to.

Although the art is the number one important thing, if that artwork doesn't meet with the theme and that I will be creating for my vision for the five trams, then I might not consider it as a valid tram for this year. That doesn't mean that artwork is not beautiful, it just means that it doesn't work within the theme.

Next key thing is, is this work original? Is this a work something that I haven't seen before? Is it your voice? Is it who you are as an artist? Next key thing is meaningfulness. What is the impact of this tram going to be in the long run of the Art Tram programme? What will it be? And lastly, what is the impact that this tram will have on the general public when they see the tram moving past? Some people will only get a glimpse of this tram out of the corner of their eye for five seconds. We want people to be like, “What is that? What is that interesting thing? What is that tram? What does it mean?” We want to engage people. Obviously, we don't want to distract people in traffic, but we want to make sure that that tram has an impact, that it says something. And that's what I'm looking for.

I hope that helps you better understand what I'm looking for as a curator for the Art Trams. I hope it doesn't also put you off submitting something, please submit something. I really believe that this project can transform people's lives and not only the artists, but community as well. And I know the impact for this tram, for my tram, brought back, brought up so much joy to a lot of people. And for me, that is the number one thing that I wanted when I created that tram. So think about those things. What do you want to impact into someone's life when they see your tram go by? Anyway, good luck.

I am so, so eager to see all your designs. I think that they are gonna be beautiful and it's just, I'm so eager. I can't wait. So I will leave it at that. Noon godjin. I hope this all helps. I can't wait to see all your beautiful trams. I just, ah, wow, I'm so excited. It's my favourite part, when I get to look at art, so please apply. Send them in, don't be ashamed, all right?


Jarra Karalinar Steel is a multi-disciplinary artist known for her powerful emu engravings, poster art, large scale public installations, Digital/Augmented Reality Art, RAP artwork and commemorative signage. Karalinar Steel is of Boonwurrung, Wemba Wemba, English and Scottish descent. Karalinar Steel completed her Master of Arts (Art in Public Space) from RMIT in 2020. Karalinar Steel is a passionate advocate/consultant for Self-Representation of Kulin and Victorian First Peoples Art and culture and making sure it is kept alive and thriving.


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