The by-election for Lord Mayor of Melbourne just took an artistic – and Greek – turn. Visual artist and lighting designer Katie Sfetkidis announced her candidacy on Monday, promising to use her campaign to promote the arts and intersectional feminism.
“I guess I have always been really passionate about politics and I felt frustrated that our voice, the artistic community’s voice, wasn’t being heard, so I decided to run,” she said in an interview posted in ArtsHub, an online platform connecting artists and other creative industry professionals.

“The arts [are] a place where serious political issues around diversity, equality, Aboriginal sovereignty, affordability and sustainability are being discussed every day in our communities and institutions,” she explained, promising to use this paradigm as a strategy to bring structural changes to the City’s Council.

In her fruitful career as a lighting designer, Katie Sfetkidis has worked with some of the most significant theatre companies in Melbourne and Sydney, but she’s also had a parallel career in contemporary art, employing video, performance and role-play as tools for social critique.

As an independent candidate with limited financial resources, she knows that her chances of winning are very dim, but her main aim is to instigate dialogue and bring attention to a series of issues, such as accessibility, homelessness and affordability. Bringing as an example the number of independent, artist-run galleries, which have been forced to move from the City, due to gentrification and high costs, she raises an issue of importance to her: “I don’t want the city to just be for the rich,” she says.

Given both her limited means and her artistic background, as well as her determination to use this campaign to make a statement for the environment, Katie Sfetkidis will refrain from the traditional methods of campaigning, which include large quantities of printed material sent out through the mail. Instead, she chose to run a campaign through social media, although a series of posters, designed by local artists, will be released over the coming weeks.

Katie Sfetkidis is the 16th candidate to run in this election, following forerunner Sally Capp,  Gary Morgan, Rohan Leppert, Sally Warhaft, Alex MacDonald, Allan Watson, Qun Xie, Jennifer Yang, Nathalie Nicole O’Sughrue, Michael Burge, Ken Ong, Bruce Poon and Luke Downing.

The byelection for lord mayor is being held via postal ballots and concludes on 12 May. It is being held to replace Robert Doyle, who resigned after two councillors accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Doyle continues to deny the allegations.