It's a pretty amazing thing when the work you do connects you with the people that inspire you most. Needless to say at Muralisto, Joe Quilter is one of those people and an absolute legend amongst us! He has been a instrumental figure in the Sydney graffiti movement and continues to do amazing work, empowering vulnerable communities through arts and cultural initiatives at SSI. As if it wasn't quite enough, Joe is also researching a PhD into the ethics of street art and graffiti culture to encourage a deeper understanding of the movements and artistic expressions that shape our identity and give voice to those who need it most. 

Joe is humble and matter of fact and intensely interesting! His passion and smarts is evident in the many murals and projects he has brought to life - not least of all, a recent collab with Muralisto - The Mosman Regeneration Project - which combined the talents of artists from refugee and migrant backgrounds with professional public artists to reimagine a run-down WWII bunker through collaborative community art.

We've been lucky enough to work with Joe over these past few months and managed to catch him for a few spare moments to ask him a few questions about life... 

What made you become an artist?

I've always been into art since I was a kid in America. I used to draw pictures of cowboys and Indians, and as I got older I became obsessed with comic books and fantasy artists like Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta. For the first half of high school I wasn't into art mostly sport, but loved seeing all the graffiti in Auckland. My school got a bunch of murals commissioned and when I moved to Australia I met some really good graffiti artists and was hooked. I then studied fine art at university and it's been basically full steam ahead since then. 

How would you describe your work?

My work is graffiti, calligraphy, stylized realism and abstract. It is also an ever evolving unhinged beast in an infinite war between fate and destiny. 


What has been your favourite project this year and why?

My favourite project so far this year has been the piece I did on my local auto shop. Mainly because it is the first big mural I have done in my local area since I moved here. I have a bunch more coming up but generally anything that brings people together to have fun being creative is a good time. 

What has inspired/ influenced you as an artist?

My primary inspiration as an artist is the desire to understand myself. Art teaches me about myself, but the social function of art is as important, so the fact that art moves people and can inspire them is something that inspires me. 

What are your thoughts on ‘artivism’ and the role of art + social change?

Artivism is super important. George Gittoes is a big inspiration to the role of artivism in ethics and art, and organisations like Muralisto are right up there with him. Art speaks to the human soul, and public art especially is a great way to use the voice of creativity to inspire change, educate and represent those values that rise to universal heights with the potential to transform the world into a better, and way more colorful place. 

What is your favourite public art initiative worldwide?

My favourite public art initiative worldwide is graffiti. All graffiti. Mainly because true, gritty, street-based graffiti writing is the least self-conscious Marxist aesthetic there is, in my view, most graffiti writers I doubt even realise the gravitas of what they do, how much it has changed and brought about in the 60 odd years it has existed in its modern form, and continues to in defiance of great adversity. Graffiti started in poor neighbourhoods and has taken the world. At its best, graffiti continues to represent a voice that disrupts and challenges the harsh realities of a class system within which the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

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Tell us about your work at SSI - Has it changed your perspective on the role of art and the artist?

My work with vulnerable communities has always been super important to me. I've worked in art programs with refugees, the disabled and disadvantaged young persons. My Father was a professional moral philosopher and my Mum an ordained Anglican Priest and Feminist Theologian, so right v wrong, good v evil, all the druthers of ethics and morality have been hammered into me since I opened my eyes. This has also meant that I have always thought critically and deeply about these things. So working with vulnerable communities has been omnipresent since I helped out in the soup kitchen as a kid. Some of my friends back then that hung around the church were ex-cons and homeless folks, they were always kind good people and often the first to be as generous as they could. This knowledge has perpetuated my life and professional experience to date and continues to do so. 


The Mandala of Peace floods the Parramatta CBD with vibrancy and colour. The magnificent mural was co-designed with the refugee community alongside professional artivists Dan Cydes and Xander 'Knoswet' Zee as part of the Welcome Walls 2017 initiative. It is made up of universal symbols of peace and unity that encourages each of us to reconnect with the human story. It is also a celebration of the natural world that we all share and hold common.

Xander Zee is an emerging Australian artist / artivist  passionate about using his skills as a muralist, public artists and designer to encourage positive change, education and conversation. His artwork is best described as expressive street style portraiture. Dan Cydes is a young artist / artivist from the Blue Mountains who's exceptional talent has seen him enjoy success working alongside some of Australia's most prominent muralists including Scott Nagy and Krimsone. His work is a celebration of our experience and connection to the natural world, often brimming with engaging characters and hypnotising calligraphy. This collaboration showcases the ability of both young artists to work with community and co-create powerful public art.

"As this work was created from and inspired by the voices of many refugees and migrants in our community, we both honour and bring to light this ongoing sociopolitical issue. The two figures on either side of the mural represent two strangers reaching out to each other from the far side of freedom. Their union within the community depends first upon understanding, promising the values of inclusion, togetherness, and cohesion.

Together, all of these symbols and images reflect the rich cultural diversity within our community in Parramatta and aims to send a message of peace and welcome out to the world. This work celebrates our diverse array of cultural heritage, languages, stories, and understandings we share together. When combined, the force of unity transcends all. A mandala is a spiritual symbol representing the universe within a circular pattern.

The mandala designed for this mural begins with the shapes and colours of the indigenous flag, to represent the continuous wisdom and compassion of our native cultures. Much like a circle, it has no start or finish. On top of this foundation, in the centre lies two blue lotus flowers - an Eastern symbol for peace, unity, wisdom, and love. In front of the flowers, two hands are outstretched toward each other, to symbolise the importance of human connection. Looking deep into each others eyes, the power of acknowledgement and understanding holds the ‘peace’ in place. This awe-invoking imagery was inspired by Michelangelo’s ‘creation of Adam’, and alludes to the sharing of creativity, knowledge and wisdom, while also reflecting in this context the creative force born from the connection between two strangers.

This imagery communicates cooperation and connection, imagining a society in which we all create together as one. The next layer of the mandala shows native kingfishers, to represent the freedom and expansiveness of the Australian bush land, which provides us a sense of belonging. Opposite the kingfishers are two wolves, reminding us of the power of brotherhood that lies in nature. the calligraphy written in English, Arabic and Nepalese and says, “One Love, One Family,” with the Arabic word “Ishq” in the middle - denoting the divine love that connects us all. The outer ring reads “om mani padme hum,” which is a Tibetan peace mantra."

- Xander 'knoswet' Zee and Dan Cydes

Collectively the 3 large scale murals took 2 weeks to complete, 70 litres of Taubman's Exterior paint and 65 Sugar spray cans to cover as well as one heavy duty Kennard's Scissorlift. They were coated with clear primer that extends the life span of the murals and colours and protects the work from graffiti. Out partners were fundamental in ensuring the success of this mural and we feel extremely lucky to be working with like minded people who understand the importance of public art in shaping our future communities. 

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Welcome Walls 2017 was a huge success and we can't wait to see what next year brings to the table! If you would like to be a part of Welcome Walls 2018 or work with the Welcome Walls artivists please drop us an email or give us a call!

Read the Welcome Walls Article by The Daily Telegraph.


Young "artivists" from Liverpool Girls contributing to the community mural.

Young "artivists" from Liverpool Girls contributing to the community mural.

As part of a very special celebration for Harmony Day, 22 March 2017, artivists Lily Keenan and Lotte Smith with sisters Rooan and Ashwa Al-Kalmashi, produced an incredibly impressive collaborative mural over two days with the entire school. Liverpool Girls is a proudly diverse community with other 60 different cultures represented by over 1000 female students. The mural design celebrates the brave journeys of refugee women around the world and celebrates our shared experience as females.

"Having taken part in the co design process has really empowered us young girls to not only participate but have our voices heard on matters that we think are important. It has allowed me to develop skills by working one on one with artists and has promoted me to think creatively and outside the box. I definitely think that sitting on a table, one on one with an artist and being able to communicate with them, and turn thoughts into abstract artworks is powerful and empowering. It has taken away the idea that art is for the privileged and the talented and has made it universal and accessible for young people like myself. In particular, this artwork resonates with my beliefs regarding women empowerment, youth empowerment and acknowledgement of the refugee and asylum seeker community. I hope you appreciate this artwork, as much as I do. Thank you."

- Ashwa Al Kalmashi

Liverpool Girls Highschool Student

" This mural is a celebration of femininity in all its forms. The female experience is unifying; regardless of place, race, or history we are bonded by the physical and emotional journey of womanhood. Our bodies are sacred and beautiful, the only vessel to carry us through the journey of life. The women in our mural are proud of their bodies, and their feminine shapes flow together with their companions like water. Within their bodies they carry symbols of womanhood, fertility, spirituality, a connection to the land and water. Whether refugee or Australian or both - we are all on a journey. This mural recognises the pride, strength and great resilience of woman all over the world. This is not a welcome to our country, this is a welcome home.”

- Lily Keenan and Lotte Smith

Muralisto felt tremendously lucky to be part of the celebrations at Liverpool Girls High school. The young women who shared their culture through dance, song and food exuded self confidence and personality, they were proud to share what made them unique and appreciated the diversity of their fellow students. It's moments like these that inspire future generations to be the kind of people who will make this world a better place. Over the course of the day hundreds of girls joined muralists to write inspirational messages to themselves and women around the world. 

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The intersection of the arts and political activism has been an age old partnership defined by their shared purpose to encourage transformational change and community engagement. Taking many forms and shapes, art in public space that pushes social agendas, has the capacity to resonate with wide audiences, change perspectives, create new relationships and engender action on important global issues.

The subjectivity of art and its multi-cultural appeal amplifies the power to revolutionise. At a time when we are more inter-connected than we ever could have imagined, more exposed to cultural diversity than ever before, the role of art in bringing us together is more important than ever. Right now, when we rally together around the issues that have significant if not detrimental impact on our future, we truly possess the potential to change political discourse around the world. Art provides a platform that mobilises ideas and passions into action. 

Provocative ideas and opinions have been presented by artists who have been able to channel the voice of communities that feel disenfranchised and disconnected. Employing art to tackle highly complex and politically charged issues that fracture communities is vital in order to create a deeper level of understanding and tolerance. Through this momentum of social cohension and engagement, change and transformation is possible. The context in which art is created is obviously hugely important and it takes a lot of conviction to create art that can effect momentous social change. The ability to connect on an individual level, a reflective level and on a macro-scale shines a light on the steps necessary in mobilising communities. When so many of us are experiencing isolation and loneliness, creating safe spaces to connect, share opinions, reflect and inspire are crucial to positive progress. 

Art and culture form the fabrics of our individual and collective identities, they reflect our values and help us envision a future that is more equal, sustainable and bright.  For this reason, developing the arts is on the agenda for all progressive governments and CSR-focused big business. We are continually exploring the impacts that art can have on shaping and changing political, social and cultural issues that we face across the globe. The rise of artivism and artivist organisations is testament to the relevance of the public art movement and its potential to generate change and engage the people. 



Artist Lotte Smith. Photographer and Videographer: Ali Mousawi

Artist Lotte Smith. Photographer and Videographer: Ali Mousawi

Eco World is a leading international property developer who commissioned Muralisto artists to create mural pieces about unity and humanity in the centre of Parramatta's CBD. Local artists splashed blue paint and original designs across 25metres of temporary hoarding. The artivists who brought the colour and creativity included Lotte Smith, Xander 'knoswet' Zee, Dan Cydes, and Rose Ashton. 


18 Hunter Street, Parramatta, March 2017

The folk art style 'Warli' has been practiced by many Northern and Western Indian groups for centuries. Thanks to our inaugural Welcome Walls initiative in Western Sydney in 2017, it has come to the streets of Parramatta in celebration of multiculturalism. This particular collaboration called on the talents of proactive and colourful artivists from the Creative Women's Group, and Welcome Studio artists, Sally Ann Conwell and Katherine Nelson. We feel very lucky to have facilitated such a strong piece of work that not only brought together phenomenal women from all different backgrounds, but praises diversity and highlights the important role women have to play in commentating and communicating our universal story.

The role of art has been forever to convey the context, climates, values, hopes and dreams of their time. In 2016 SBS reported that India has emerged as the dominant source of immigrants between 2015-2016. We feel it is important for our cities to reflect our multiculturalism and to inspire the next generation of thinkers, creators, entrepreneurs, artists and inventors. This type of cultural diversity enriches the quality of our communities and inspires the work we do. There's a lot more to public art than what meets the eye. There's the ability to tell stories in a universal language that helps us connect with our humanity. There's the opportunity to educate, participate and understand other cultures and perspectives. There's the fact that it encourages conversation and makes walking around the city a safer, more engaging experience for the millions that commute to and work in Parramatta. 

Thanks to these ladies we are well on our way to creating more murals of this nature!


Welcome Walls is a grassroots initiative that brings together public artists and refugee communities to co-create messages of ‘welcome’ through striking mural designs.

This project is fuelled by the transformative power of public art. Art enables us to share our stories, express our identities, and empower one another while creating a harmonious and compassionate community. Welcome Walls partnered with Parramatta Council for the official Australia Day 2017 celebrations, at which we delivered live, participatory mural painting as a highlight of the program. This event marked the launch of a month long celebration of diversity through large scale public art works, exhibitions, workshops and talks.

The concepts for each artwork arise out of a series of 'co-design' workshops to which the wider community is invited to collaborate with local artists to shape the messages, concepts, and images behind the public art works. These workshops provide a platform for established and emerging artists from Indigenous and multi-cultural backgrounds to connect with the community and young people's voices.

A number of sites, including two temporary walls in Parramatta Park, help to raise Indigenous cultural awareness whilst celebrating our multi-cultural landscape. Through our co-design process and the engaging medium of participatory public art, we hope to educate and engage the community, especially young people.

Our pilot event in 2017 was extremely successful and provided invaluable insight. We were able to tap into the target market of young people ranging from 0 - 18 years at the Australia Day event in Parramatta, which hosted 60,000 people. Throughout the day, hundreds of young people from all different backgrounds were instantly engaged and curious about the Welcome Walls initiative. There is a disarming quality about participatory art that allows for genuine connections, ones that surpass perceived social and cultural barriers.

Young people were able to express themselves creatively in collaboration with professional artists and peers in an inclusive environment, feel an integral part of the creative process, and positively contribute to a public artwork. This very tangible and physical reward is rooted in the positive effects of community and participation.

This project provides a new and unique platform for engagement by providing a place in which community members can come together to creatively celebrate culture, stories, and experiences, while tangibly shaping their shared public space. This is particularly beneficial for young people. This project provides young people with a creative way to engage with the issues of racism, discrimination, exclusion, and marginalisation. Welcome Walls provides a platform through which to collectively reimagine a society built upon the values of inclusion, humanity, and peace. Welcome Walls is committed to celebrating our social and cultural diversity through co- designed public art whilst building a new generation of artist voices.