The elephant everyone will be talking about

Poet Lorin Reid, whose words inspired street artist Fintan Magee as part of Wollongong's Street Talk project. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Poet Lorin Reid, whose words inspired street artist Fintan Magee as part of Wollongong's Street Talk project. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

When you see the giant elephant behind the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, fear not - it is just one more part of a council program turning heads across the city.

Three talented street artists have spent the past few days using spray paint and brushes to cover IPAC's back wall, as part of Wollongong City Council's Street Talk project.

The wall, part of the city's new arts precinct, will soon boast giant murals of an elephant, a tiger, a lyrebird and more - inspired by slam poetry.

"This whole work is a collaboration between three poets and three street artists," poet Lorin Reid said.

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"We wrote our poems, and the artists drew inspiration for their work from those."

Lorin's poem, with "a moral lesson about an elephant", inspired the design of Sydney-based street artist Fintan Magee.

"My work is an interpretation of her work," he said.

" I took some key words that stuck out to me, mashed them together and made an artwork out of it."

Street Talk is a project of the council's Creative Space Strategy and Public Art Program - all artists and poets involved are paid. Megan McKell, cultural development co-ordinator at Wollongong City Gallery, said the strategy was to breathe new life into overlooked or forgotten spaces in town.

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"It's to assist in creating pathways through the city that are interesting, exciting and safe, and to help the city centre revitalisation," she said.

The Creative Space Strategy has also yielded street artworks outside the Otis Bar site, in lanes off Crown Street Mall and on regularly rotated panels outside the gallery.

"It brings creativity, colour and excitement, and brings the general public face to face with contemporary art," Ms McKell said.

Mr Magee said public art could create pride in shared public spaces.

"It can be a big tourist drawcard and it can be good for the cultural vibrancy and credibility of the city," he said.

The new murals will be officially unveiled tomorrow at 5.30pm, with a launch event including slam poetry readings, music and DJs.