Perth, politics and public art: An interview with Lord Mayoral candidate Reece Harley.

Perth Lord Mayoral candidate Reece Harley is a keen supporter of public art projects like this mural by Beastman and Vans the Omega in the open air car park on Murray St in the city.

Perth Lord Mayoral candidate Reece Harley is a keen supporter of public art projects like this mural by Beastman and Vans the Omega in the open air car park on Murray St in the city.

As we edge closer to Perth's new Lord Mayor being elected on October 17, the competition is hotting up between the two running candidates Lisa Scaffidi and Reece Harley. Many of you will know that Mrs Scaffidi is the incumbent Lord Mayor, but who is Reece Harley? We caught up with him this week to discuss his passionate plans for Perth and find out more about his long-time love of urban art...
 
SOP: Hi Reece, great to see you. In recent months you've established the Museum of Perth, got married, you’re a Perth City Councillor as well as working full time and now you're running for Lord Mayor. Exactly when do you sleep?
 
RH: Ha ha, it's been a busy year but I'm loving it. In the last few months I’ve door-knocked around 700 local residents, phoned hundreds more, and met with many business owners. It's so important to talk to our constituents and take their feedback on board.
 
SOP: You've recently gone head to head with Lisa Scaffidi on a number of matters including the lack of transparency around some councillors' expenses, the future of West Perth's Graham Flats development and her suggestion of tunneling under Kings Park to ease traffic flow. You've also said that if you're elected Lord Mayor, you'd lead a council that genuinely engages with local residents and businesses. What drives your passion for Perth? 
 
RH: I truly believe that a great city should embrace change and operate as facilitator, not just a regulator. I couldn't believe my ears when Lisa proposed tunnelling under Kings Park. Can you imagine a traffic tunnel under the State War Memorial? Kings Park is sacred place for all West Australians to commemorate, reflect and enjoy. Successive generations have protected Kings Park and I will as well. I hope it was just a bit of a thought-bubble.
 
SOP: When we first met you at an event earlier this year, you told us that you're a big fan of street art. What were your thoughts on the recent news article about the Perth City Council meeting in which a proposed CBD mural project was rejected, with Lisa Scaffidi being the "no" vote that clinched the decision?
 
RH: I was very, very disappointed, particularly with her comment "A blank wall does it for me". Personally, that was the moment where she proved to me that she was out of touch.
 
SOP: We were quite surprised by that too. We understand the importance of leaving heritage listed buildings and certain other locations untouched, but there's a lot of boring blank walls in the city that could be brought to life with public art. Obviously we're a bit biased, but really - what harm is it doing?
 
RH: I know, I just don't get it. The team at FORM have been responsible for the proliferation of public art right across our city and they've done some incredible things over the last few years. I mean, who doesn't love art!?
 
SOP: Our Facebook page has 70,000 followers who would agree with you on that! And our page statistics show that at least a quarter of those are viewing our daily posts from other countries.
 
RH: There you go. That just reiterates that Perth is becoming an art-based destination in it's own right. I mean, what do you know about modern day Berlin? Great public art. Great street art! Just look at this wall behind us. The murals in this car park are now featured in a public art walking tour run by FORM. Before, this was just a boring car park; Now people actually walk here just to see these artworks. Street art brings people here and when visitors look at it, they see Perth with fresh eyes. Street art isn’t just about artistic expression, it’s about creating destinations in a city, and about iconic pieces that brand a city.
 
SOP: What does street art mean to you personally?
 
RH: For me, street art is an important element of creating a beautiful city. It’s ephemeral, it’s beautiful, it’s sometimes challenging and it should be supported not discouraged. People are more likely to open up businesses in precincts with public artworks because people linger there for longer. Blank walls are boring! And I don't think Perth is suffering from being overrun with street art. There are lots of places in the city that could use some tender loving care and this is a fast, relatively cheap and really popular way to bring vibrancy to some parts of our city. I believe our City should develop more precinct groups like the Beaufort Street Network to bring together businesses and residents to drive local change at a local level. Small projects like street furniture, on road cafes, art installations and murals create interest and diversity and they bring people together around common goals. It’s the process that matters just as much as the outcome.
 
SOP: Have you always been a fan of urban art?
 
RH: Yes absolutely. I recently got married and we had some photos taken in front of the Maya Hayuk mural in Wolf Lane, it made a great backdrop.
 
SOP: Do you have a favourite mural in the city?
 
RH: This mural right here is actually my favourite - and look, no one has graffitied it. So there's another advantage of street art - it's a deterrent for graffiti too.
 
SOP: Thanks for meeting with us Reece, and best of luck for Lord Mayor!
 
If you currently live in Perth CBD, East Perth, West Perth, Crawley or Northbridge (or have a business or rental property in one of those suburbs), you can lodge your vote for Candidate Harley by returning your voting slip to the WA Electoral Commission in the mail ASAP or in person at Council House, 27 St George’s Terrace Perth, before 6pm on October 17. 

Councillor Harley and wife Rebekah recently tied the knot and incorporated a Perth mural into their wedding photos. Photo provided by Reece Harley.

Councillor Harley and wife Rebekah recently tied the knot and incorporated a Perth mural into their wedding photos. Photo provided by Reece Harley.