One moment please…

When you think of Sydney, do you imagine a landscape painted bright with sunshine? Perhaps you think of Bondi Beach. Or does the name conjure up images of the spectacular architectural landmarks of Sydney Harbor? The Harbor Bridge is impressive, no doubt about it. And you can’t deny the grandeur of Sydney Opera House, its white sails shining in the ubiquitous sunshine. Situated between these two world-renowned landmarks, Circular Quay is a bustling hub of activity. Masses of people moving to the rhythmic accompaniment of a techno-didgeridoo busker. Sometimes it can seem quite surreal, almost as though you are walking through a postcard. With its fabulous landmarks and crowds of people, Sydney can be more than a little overwhelming at times, even for a “local.”

PRE-CONCEIVED STEREOTYPES
You see, though I am Australian, I’m not from around here. I grew up on an island – an isolated, beautiful place. After that, I lived in Adelaide, a smallish city in South Australia. Upon completing my studies, I decided to relocate interstate to work at the Biennale of Sydney, a dynamic and exciting international contemporary art festival. After a 1700-kilometer road trip that proved my brother’s navigation skills to be decidedly lacking, I found myself here in Sydney, unsure of what to expect and not entirely convinced that it was really the city for me. I had always thought I would live in Melbourne – a city that seemed more like New York, creative and interesting with something new to discover around every corner. To my mind, full of pre-conceived stereotypes, Sydney seemed more akin to Los Angeles – a city for tourists, sunny and nice but without much going on beneath the surface.

 

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, Sydney is typecast by tourism campaigns that usually feature icons, beaches and ideas of Australian culture that have little to do with the arts or creativity. However, I have been delighted to discover that there is more to Sydney than spectacular views and sunshine.

AN EVOLVING CULTURAL IDENTITY
The city is home to several museums with world-class collections, performing arts institutions are everywhere, and there is a seemingly endless array of culturally oriented festivals. Even without these larger organizations and festivals, there is creativity all around, if you know where to look.

 

One of the best things is that Sydney’s cultural identity is constantly changing and evolving. Venture off the beaten track and into the suburbs and small galleries and artist-run initiatives abound. Seemingly quiet backstreets and alleyways can hold everything from cinemas and independent theatres to restaurants, cafes and bars. Regular weekend markets are dotted throughout the suburbs, community festivals and events occur with frequency, and new pop-up projects and collaborations appear on an almost weekly basis. I’ve now called Sydney home for three and a half years and I’m still finding new, exciting and inspiring things every day.

 

Written August 2014, by Tai Spruyt. Check her profile here.