When our daughter was two she made an imaginary friend, it started with a tea party on a corner in Fitzroy. There is nothing remarkable about this I suppose except for the fact that we could all see her as well, her name was Be Free and she was the charming little girl that had been gracing the Melbourne street art scene for some time. Mini adored Be Free, so I used the marvelous power of social media to track down more installations and we ended up travelling all over the city to see what she would be doing next. We helped her hide from a bear in Collingwood (a collaboration with another talented local artist Erin Greer), we played cards with her in a Preston Laneway, hid under an umbrella as she threw paint at us in SouthGate and raced bikes along the path in Northcote. Mini usually offered some tiny teddies but Be Free generally refused.
Before this little friendship blossomed I hadn’t spent much time looking at the street art in Melbourne and I was amazed at the quality and quantity of the work that was around. Murals running the length of entire laneways and portraits the size of walls, paste ups and stickers used in the most creative of ways and quirky yarn bombing in unexpected places. It felt like a treasure hunt. Then one day the artist Be Free contacted us and asked if mini would like to meet the little girl behind the image and help with a project they were working on involving paint balloons. I think the conversation I had with Mini following that invitation is the favourite of my parenting career.
‘Mini, your imaginary friend is actually real and she’d like to meet you so you can help her throw paint balloons at a wall.’
I don’t think I’m going to be able to top that one.
Since then Be Free has travelled over to Dunedin NZ as part of a crowd funded street art festival where they have painted both girls throwing paint around and squirting fire extinguishers. Seeing Mini actually enter the world of her long time imaginary friend was a real through-the-looking-glass moment. It has certainly been an unusual way to discover this part of the Melbourne art world but it’s given us such a passion for it, I think there will always be a magic to the colourful laneways and I never walk past one without looking now. You never know what masterpiece you’ll find. Be Free, the artist, is a wonderfully talented person who I’m sure will continue to brighten up the walls of the city for many years to come and I very much look forward to seeing what the girls get up to, on and off the wall.