A series of gi­ant art­works on old grain si­los is help­ing rein­vig­o­rate a string of small towns in the Wim­mera-Mallee re­gion of western Vic­to­ria.

Australian Geographic - - Contents - CHRISSIE GOLDRICK

The ru­ral mu­rals bring­ing life to small-town Vic­to­ria

THE VIC­TO­RIAN RU­RAL Art Trail be­gan with one small coun­try town and one large-scale street artist and has ex­panded to become a 200km out­door gallery through some of north-western Vic­to­ria’s most de­prived re­gional com­mu­ni­ties. In 2016 artist Guido Van Hel­ten painted a set of de­com­mis­sioned wheat si­los in Brim (pop. 171) with four pho­to­re­al­is­tic monochrome por­traits of farm­ers.The mu­ral was the brain­child of Juddy Roller, a Mel­bourne street-art col­lec­tive that, with the per­mis­sion of Graincorp (which owns this and many more silo sites around Aus­tralia), worked closely with the lo­cal com­mu­nity to sen­si­tively de­pict Brim’s agri­cul­tural her­itage.The project at­tracted in­ter­na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion and vis­i­tors fol­lowed in droves. Nearby com­mu­ni­ties were gal­vanised into ac­tion, and by 2018 five more gi­ant art­works had been com­pleted on old si­los in the towns of Rosebery, Las­celles, Ru­pa­nyup, Sheep Hills and Patchewol­lock. These aren’t Aus­tralia’s only painted stor­age tow­ers but they are the first to be imag­ined as an in­te­grated out­door art trail, which is now widely re­garded as the coun­try’s largest art gallery. Changed farm­ing prac­tices, rail clo­sures and in­dus­try com­pli­ance is­sues have all con­tributed to the demise of most of the tow­er­ing con­crete si­los that de­fined the na­tion’s ru­ral sky­line for more than a cen­tury. Their transforma­tion into huge can­vases de­pict­ing pow­er­ful, emo­tive im­ages of coun­try life and peo­ple has cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion and brought pride to com­mu­ni­ties deal­ing with mul­ti­ple prob­lems – not least of which is the worst drought since the Mil­len­nium Drought of 2001– 09. In May, Brim’s painted si­los (right) fea­tured on a set of Aus­tralia Post lim­ited edi­tion stamps, and Graincorp has re­ceived hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions from coun­try towns keen to add their si­los to this ru­ral art move­ment.

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