Collaborations and Public Arts Projects

Melinda enjoys working beyond the written word, and has collaborated with a number of artists in other forms. Here are a few examples.


‘Signs of Life’ Contour 556, with Caren Florance, 2018

This public art project was a set of poems specially written for display on a digital traffic sign, which was displayed in Henry Rolland Park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, as part of Contour 556, Canberra’s Public Art Biennial, in 2018. The display ran 24 hours per day over one week, with different sets of poems for daytime and night-time display. The work was a collaboration with artist Caren Florance, who set up three such installations with three different poets in different lakeside locations across the three weeks of the festival.

On this page you can see samples of some of the daytime poems. Watch a video loop of the night time poems here:

Poem 1:

Error 404: Excalibur Not Found

Poem 2:

Slow down, the water wants you

to watch

Poem 3:

This wind in your eyes is a gift

of tears

Old Parliament House residency, with Caren Florance, 2014-2017
Melinda Smith collaboration

Photo credit: Mark Nolan, Chalk Studio

Melinda Smith and artist Caren Florance undertook a joint CraftACT residency at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in 2014-2015.

The collaboration resulted in:

  • a text installation (Be Spoken To ) displayed for 12 months at MOADOPH,
  • a poetry chapbook (Members Only (Recent Work Press / Ampersand Duck, 2017)),
  • an artist’s book (1962: Be Spoken To), copies currently held in NLA and State Library of NSW permanent collections; shortlisted for Mackay Libris Award; and
  • exhibitions in Canberra at M16 Art Space and East Space Gallery; and
  • a short film which formed part of Lakeside Stories, a Localjinni project for Contour 556 2018.

Read more about the collaboration here and here. Read some sample poems from Members Only here .

#LookUP Project,with Rhonda Ayliffe, 2015-present

“the young air / and the fireworks / the money underneath” #LookUP Project Day 47, 16th February. Micropoem by Melinda Smith, Image by Rhonda Ayliffe.

The #LookUP Project is a collaboration with Bega region artist Rhonda Ayliffe. Rhonda took 365 photographs of the sky (one for each day in 2015), for each of which Melinda wrote a micropoem. The entire photographic series can be viewed on Instagram here, with the micropoem for each image in the Instagram caption.

For a short 17-day sample of the project, see ‘Leaves from the Lovers’ Almanac’ under sample poems.

The series is also available as a 90 minute film loop, for showing at arts and literary festivals and in gallery spaces (works best as a ceiling projection with cushions underneath for patrons to recline on). View an excerpt here: over 2 min).

The project also produced a series of photograph + poem postcards, available in the SHOP.

CO.LAB, with Australian Dance Party, 2018-present

Australian Dance Party with Melinda Smith

Melinda has an ongoing collaboration with the Canberra based dance company Australian Dance Party (Alison Plevey, Principal) and musicians from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Their project together, ‘CO.LAB’, involves improvised spoken word, movement and music. They have performed at Canberra Obscura at Ainslie Arts Centre, the Haig Park Bubble, and Art Not Apart festival.

Read more here.

Public Art Projects

‘Shadow Catchers’, with Sydney Writers Festival, Art Gallery of NSW, and Red Room Poetry

Melinda was commissioned to respond to the 2020 AGNSW photography exhibition Shadow catchers, in particular three works by Julie Rrap, Anne Balla and Patrick Pound. The project originally included two public events in partnership with Sydney Writers’ Festival and AGNSW, however due to restrictions on public gatherings as part of the COVID19 lockdown these events could not go ahead. You can still view, read, and listen to the results here, though:;;and

Poems for Trees: Haig Park Experiments Heritage Signage Project

The ACT Government’s City Renewal Authority commissioned ten poets to write a poem each for a particular tree in Haig Park, as part of the Haig Park Experiments Heritage Signage Project. Melinda was allocated Tree No. 7 and briefed to write about one of its significant arboreal features: exposed roots.

The resulting poem was displayed on purpose built signage in the park during 2019 and 2020. Each sign included the poem, and historical and botanical information about the park and the particular tree.

Postcards from the Sky – Exhibition at Belconnen Arts Centre, Feb-March 2019

For this exhibition, curated by poet Lizz Murphy, Melinda wrote a pair of poems re-telling the stories of well-known constellations from the perspective of women fleeing male violence. The poems, ‘Orion as a woman unhelped by White Ribbon’, and 'Eurydice's last sky', were displayed on black dresses, with the constellation lines marked out by translucent ribbon. Each stanza of each poem was positioned consistently with a star in its constellation.

National Museum of Australia, Collections and Verse : Studio Objects – 21 Buttons for Yoshiko

In June 2019 the National Museum of Australia commissioned a number of poets to respond to objects from its permanent collection. Melinda was allocated the wedding dress of Japanese ‘war bride’ Yoshiko Creagh, nee Ishikawa.  The resulting poem, 21 Buttons for Yoshikowas performed at a special public event at the Museum.

 Images © National Museum of Australia.

Forthcoming Collaborations and Public Art Projects

'Lurk Burley Griffin' Contour 556

October 2020, with Caren Florance, Jacqui Malins and Zoe Anderson.

Songs from a Stolen Senate

A song cycle libretto, 2020-2021, with Griffyn Chamber Ensemble and Indigenous composers Norah Bagiri, Christoper Sainsbury, Brenda Gifford, Gina Williams and Warren Williams.

Read more here.