A man walks past an artist painting a large mural of flowers and seeds on a library wall

Murals are the new ‘big things’ that keep these small towns alive

Fintan Magee has settled into a rhythm on the streets of Oakey.

The world-renowned street artist has spent the past week painting his latest work on the city library wall, spending much of that time chatting with residents and passers-by as the work progressed.

“I feel like smaller towns are a little more hands-on in their involvement in this kind of work,” he said.

Magee has painted large-scale murals in cities around the world, but notices a difference when painting in regional Australia.

The large-scale work took four days.ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders

“There seems to be a greater sense of ownership [from the locals]and I think you could say pride in work,” he said.

“There aren’t art galleries in a lot of smaller towns, so these people don’t always have access to art. And I just like the idea that art is a part of people’s everyday lives.

“I like that the work becomes part of the landscape.”

While other “big things” in Australia are of opinion dividedNSthe modern regional street art phenomenon is widely acclaimed.

a painting of a large blue elephant on an outside wall
Fintan Magee’s elephant mural has become a must-see in Toowoomba. ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders

Art transforms the community

Large-scale artworks have not only brightened up small communities, but brought art-loving visitors to cities in need of a boost.

Nearly 400 miles west of Oakey, Thallon is gearing up to celebrate five years of its painted silos.

Project coordinator Leanne Brosnan said the mural breathed new life into the town.

“During the drought, the hotel’s former tenant estimated that the silos added $200,000 a year to his profits,” she said.

“But you can’t value the pride and confidence it has given to many members of the community.

Two artists on an elevator paint a 30 m . silo wall
Artists Drapl and The Zookeeper painted the silo in Thallon for three weeks in 2017.ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders

“It has transformed the city in ways we could never have imagined.”

Ms. Brosnan said painting the city’s silos was a “statement of something positive” for a city that had suffered amid the drought.

“They had seen the train station close; they had seen businesses close. It was a constant state of disrepair,” she said.

“So that beautiful mural was meant to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘No more decay, it all comes from here.'”

And it has been.

a large postage stamp poster with the thallon silo mural
Thallon’s mural is depicted on a postage stamp.Supplied: Thallon Progress Association

“No one really knew what was going to happen,” Ms. Brosnan said.

“But it has revitalized the city and given people pride in their community.”

Images of the Thallon mural adorned tea towels, stubby coolers, magnets, jigsaw puzzles, and even a postage stamp.

It was the first mural of its kind in Queensland and has now become a must-see part of the Australian Silo Art Trail.

“People in Thallon know that their community is famous for this beautiful mural, and it has become sort of a focal point for young and old alike, which is something very special,” said Ms. Brosnan.

Boost in economy and confidence

Thallon has a population of 257, and many of those people have become unofficial guides when visitors come to town to see the mural.

Caravans parked in front of mural
The mural has turned the once tranquil city into a must-see destination.ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders

“We had maybe two caravans a night before the mural was painted,” Ms Brosnan said.

“In the tourist season there are now 25 caravans per night.

“Some go to the pub for dinner, some come to the information center and buy a tea towel, and some go to the new coffee shop.

“It gives the locals the chance to see all that through the eyes of visitors and appreciate their city even more.”

a close up view of an empty paint bucket with an artist and mural in the background
The exterior of the Oakey library has been transformed.ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders

Back in Oakey, Adam Wenitong, founder of the Young Bruthas Mentorship project, hopes to see these feelings – once the paint has dried on Australia’s latest street artwork.

“I have seen many people from out of town taking pictures of the street art in [nearby] Toowoomba,” he said.

“When I did some youth programming in Oakey, the young people said, ‘Why can’t we have something like street art here?'”

“And now we do.”

#Murals #big #small #towns #alive

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