News / Community

New park’s name honours former gallery curator 

Michelle Guglielmo ran the Counihan Gallery for four years until her death aged 31

Michelle Guglielmo’s twin sister Nicole flanked by her parents Angela and Domenico at the site of the new park opposite the Counihan Gallery in Sydney Road. Inset: Michelle Guglielmo.

Mark Phillips

A NEW park in Sydney Road opposite the Brunswick Town Hall building will be just the ninth in the City of Merri-bek to be named after a woman. 

The public space at 260 Sydney Road will be called the Michelle Guglielmo Park when it opens towards the end of this year. 

It is named after the former curator of the Counihan Gallery across Sydney Road who died in 2006 at the age of just 31 from ovarian cancer. 

Work has begun on transforming the 543 square metre space into a pocket park that will be one of the few patches of green along Sydney Road between Brunswick Road and Bell Street. 

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The then-Moreland Council bought the vacant block of land from the neighbouring Anglican Church for about $3.2 million in March 2020 for its Park Close To Home program. 

The space was occupied by a car handwashing business for about a decade until September 2018, but was most well-known for the Town Hall Kebab van, a popular late night pit stop which featured on the American food writer Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations television show in 2009. 

Merri-bek Council is spending about $1.2 million converting it into a park. Tonnes of concrete have been removed, along with low level contaminants. Dozens of trees will be planted to provide a canopy above timber deck seating. At the rear of the site will be a small lawn area, and open air films will be projected onto a screen erected on the wall of the building directly north of the park. 

A colourful large mural by street artist Mike Makatron will be retained. 

“It’s not very green along Sydney Road, so sites like this are very important because it’s somewhere with shade, somewhere to sit,” said Merri-bek Mayor Adam Pulford during a recent visit to the site. 

An artist’s impression of what the new park will look like. Source: Merri-bek City Council

The name was chosen by a public vote from three options earlier this year and approved by the council in April.  

The daughter of Italian migrants, Michelle Guglielmo only worked at the Counihan Gallery between 2002 and 2006 but she played a significant role in establishing it as one of the leading municipal contemporary art galleries in Victoria, particularly by overseeing its acquisitions of works by Noel Counihan  and his friend William Kelly. 

Michelle was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004, the same year she gave birth to her son Alessio. 

Her twin sister Nicole said Michelle studied art history and curatorship before landing the job at the Counihan Gallery when she was 27, three years after it had opened. After her diagnosis, she returned to work at the gallery as long as she was able to, Nicole said. 

“She was passionate and creative, she was inclusive and warm, intelligent and compassionate,” Nicole said. 

Michelle’s parents recall a family holiday in Europe in 1994 when she was a teenager where she visited every church and gallery she could. 

Her mother, Angela, said the family was proud to have the park named after Michelle. 

“It was a great honour just to make the shortlist,” she said. 

Nicole added: “We were taken aback by the relevance of the location [of the park] and how wonderful it would be for that connection with the gallery and that we could celebrate the women in our community for it to be named after Michelle. We were just really amazed and thrilled by it.” 

Pulford said it was doubly appropriate to name the park after Michelle given its proximity to the gallery where she worked, and in recognition of Brunswick’s Italian community. 

Of the 100 parks in Merri-bek, only eight are currently named after woman. 

“It really should be about 50%,” Pulford said. 

The new park in Frith Street and the community and arts space in Saxon Street will both be named in August after the council deferred decisions on their names this month. 

The new Sydney Road park’s name has been officially gazetted in accordance with the Naming Rules for Places in Victoria. 

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