Retired cargo containers reborn as mobile arts hubs

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The sight of shipping containers is not uncommon along the banks of the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne’s west.

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The nearby Port of Melbourne is Australia’s busiest port for containerised cargo, handling millions of tonnes of cargo each year.

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Towering stacks of rusted containers line the river, giving it the air of an industrial wasteland.

But just a short walk from the Maribyrnong, on a quiet, leafy street in Footscray, the local community centre has given several old shipping containers a new lease on life.

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In its quest to promote community-based arts projects in a sustainable fashion, the Footscray Community Arts Centre has become something of a sanctuary for retired shipping containers.

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The first thing visitors see when approaching the Centre is a brightly decorated converted shipping container plonked on the front lawn.

The colourful container is part of the Arts Centre’s PORTable Container Project, a collaboration with the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

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Maribyrnong Council donated the six-metre shipping container to FCAC for use as a mobile arts studio, where local artists can engage with the community.

The portable atelier is equipped to accommodate exhibitions, performances and workshops.

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Another two refurbished shipping containers are parked at the rear of the Centre, completing the fleet of PORTable studios.

A fourth shipping container – known as the Hip Hop Academy – sits at the edge of the Centre, overlooking the manicured gardens below.

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Emblazoned with graffiti-style murals, this ‘container canvas’ is a popular youth arts initiative.

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The idea of turning abandoned shipping containers from eyesores into arthouses is an ingenious upcycling solution.

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With the recent expansion of the Port of Melbourne, a shipping container shortage is unlikely in the foreseeable future.