As a local Perth, born and bred gal, you would think I would have explored W.A. to its fullest, and have many many stories to share. Guess what, that’s not the case at all. In fact, I have spent all of my life ‘hustling’ with self-employment and children and university that travel was never on the cards. No, not even around my own state.
The PUBLIC Silo Trail in Western Australia by FORMWA is described as ‘A creative project transforming country infrastructure into sites of world-class mural art.’ When the opportunity came to experience the PUBLIC Silo Trail, I had no idea what to expect or what I would take away from this adventure but I was ready for something new! The basis of the trail is to encourage art to not just be in a gallery, but be a part of a community. With this comes the added bonus of creating a drive for explorers of WA to head through to these communities, bringing with them tourism, new experiences, new life to these towns and of course an appreciation for art.
Each silo project was created with town and community input. The community was called upon to discuss what was to be on their silo, what reflected their town and who they were, and it was even incorporated into the schools. Perth Happenings is all about community, building a sense of place and acceptance, and when you travel to these towns you certainly experience that.
The beauty of the silo trail is that the travel stops have been sorted for you. There is a fantastic guide you can follow, and you can select a cluster of silos to visit, or you can do the full trail (We visited all spots excluding Ravensthorpe).
Starting from Perth we travelled inland to Northam.
“In March 2015 internationally renowned artists HENSE (USA) and Phlegm (UK) transformed eight, 38 metre silos over 16 days, creating Australia’s first ever painted silo mural and kickstarting a national trend. Phlegm rendered his signature whimsical characters in fantastical flying machines, while HENSE produced his customary abstract patterns in explosive blocks of fluoro colour.”
Northam is a short 90 minute trip from the city of Perth, and is a town with so much to offer. This town is growing and progressing with a brand new Dome being built alongside a new hotel and wine bar; which is within a beautiful original town building and has been renovated to look superb. We visited BILYA KOORT BOODJA (located on Minson Avenue, Northam) and it was unbelievably breathtaking. This centre opened in 2018, and is an Aboriginal Centre for Nyoongar Culture and Environmental Knowledge. Within the centre you can sit and be a part of a virtual yarn circle, and sitting within this space blew me away. I learnt so much about the experiences, racism and challenges faced; opportunities that as a caucasian Australian, I have taken for granted. When you head to Northam ensure you stop in with an open mind, there is so very much to learn.
The silos are a short drive out of town and they were a fantastic place to start our journey. The Northam PUBLIC Silo art was undertaken at a fully functional CBH grain terminal. There are still trucks coming and going which means this particular site needs you to stay back at a safe distance for your photos; however you can see from above that I was certainly close enough to enjoy them and get great shots. What I loved about this work was the bright colours and how you are left to interpret the colours, textures and placement yourself and the longer you look at this, the more you see!
When I looked up close at just how high these silos are I was blown away. Can you imagine being strapped to one of those silos to paint? Just goes to show that creativity knows no bounds!
Highlights in Northam-
New Dome and fully renovated bar and hotel opening Feb – March 2020 (Estimated date)
Hot Air ballooning and gliding
Avon River is ideal for paddlers
Fantastic walking trails
Or if you would like to spend a weekend stop along the Public Silo Trail, the Shire of Northam have created your ultimate itinerary.
Next Stop – Merredin
Northam’s silos were completed by two amazing international artists and it looks superb. Merredin’s silos however were designed, thoroughly researched and lovingly painted and the solo work of Western Australia local artist – Kyle Hughes-Odgers. Merredin is a one hour and forty-five minute drive from Northam, and there is so much to see on this drive. We drove through Meckering, which still has evidence of the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that shook the town on 14 October 1968. Although this trip is along one road- Great Eastern Highway – don’t be fooled, you will want to stop, pull over and check out the local towns on the way.
Looking at the image below, would you believe that this project, completed in 2017, took 200 Litres of paint and only 14 days!
“200 litres of paint, 14 days, 168 hours, two lifts, 80 rollers and 10 brushes. That’s what it took for Western Australian street artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers to complete artworks across four 35-metre high silos outside the Wheatbelt town of Merredin in August 2017.”
The beauty of this silo design is that the colours and focus of the community was incorporated – and being a central wheatbelt town, this silo had so much to offer! Yes there is certainly wheat on the silos, but as you look at each element of the painting you will see so much more within.
The PUBLIC Silo Trail project has had such an impact on the town that the local school created their own ‘mini silos’ with mosaic, and these are spectacular. You can see the history and community spirit of the town on these pieces at the front of the school.
Highlights in Merredin-
Cummins Theatre – a multipurpose performance venue
Merredin Heritage Precinct
Along the silo trail, no matter your pace, you will find spots, stops and so many things to see. One includes the Tin Horse Highway in Kulin. You may think tin horses – how can that be exciting? Well the tin horses are made by the community and started as a marketing gimic, but is now one of the most enjoyable self-drive tours in the wheatbelt. The Tin Horse Highway is on the way to Wave Rock and is certainly something to take a pit stip for!
Stop Three – Pingrup
“Miami artist Evoca1’s 25 metre high artwork, painted on giant grain storage silos in the Great Southern farming town of Pingrup is a tip of the hat to Western Australia’s tenacious, resourceful farming communities.”
The town of Pingrup has history dating back to 1924. Forming a part of Western Australia’s Great Southern, Pingrup is a town with a very strong community and these murals reflect that. The Pingrup Races have been a part of the town since 1932 and are a long held tradition happening during March, and as such was the inspiration for one of the silos. The middle silo reflects the merino sheep within town and the dog on the tractor, that is based on one found on the town’s main road! These silos are so epic in real life and when you are up close it is so hard to not be blown away!
Highlights in Pingrup-
The Pingrup Races
The Store Cafe 6343 – This is a cafe that would rival any you would find in Perth. I will be writing a separate feature on this cafe so watch this space!
Corner Space & Museum at the CRC
My favourite stop – Newdegate
As a 100% city gal, I can tell you that I this town really got to me. I am unsure if it was the people we met, the general vibe, or perhaps the sensational mural for the PUBLIC Silo Trail, but Newdegate was certainly my favourite stop. Newdegate dates back to 1922 and is part of the Lake Grace Shire.
“Newdegate. Salt lake and wildflower country. Wheat and barley country. In May 2018, faced with a row of CBH silos high above his head, Perth artist Brenton See conquered his fear of heights to paint four huge murals which draw inspiration directly from the flora and fauna of the area.”
The silos in Newdegate are absolutely gorgeous. The colours, the vibrancy and the connection- Perth local, Brenton See, certainly did an amazing job.
The animals on the silos are representative of the ‘local residents.’ On the far right is the Western Bearded Dragon, next to it is the Red-tailed phascogale (which is found only in the Wheatbelt) and finally the Malleefowl which is the bird symbol for the Wheatbelt. What I love the most however is the final silo. The water droplet is two tones, white one side depicting the salt lakes of the area, and the teal colour representing the fresh water lakes and rain; having one element showing the comparison of the water bodies in the area. The colours used for the background of the water droplet is demonstrating how the area looks from an aerial perspective – green fields, red dirt and dry land.
Newdegate’s Hainsworth Building, houses the Newdegate Pioneer Museum. It was originally built as a general store and dining room in the early 1930’s and is now a place for visitors to visit and reflect on early settler life. Venturing through the building it was a reminder of the luxuries we have now and the museum is presented in a very engaging layout.
Highlights in Newdegate-
Newdegate Machinery Field Days (September each year)
Newdegate Pioneer Museum
Newdegate Indoor Recreation Centre
Newdegate Skate Park
The art-stop that broke the mould- Katanning
Katanning is part of the PUBLIC Silo Art trail, but it does not have silos. What Katanning brings is something a little different.
“In November 2017, Western Australian artists Mel McVee, Brenton See, Chris Nixon and Darren Hutchens, plus Karim Jabbari from Tunisia descended on the Wheatbelt town of Katanning, located 277km southeast of Perth.
Seven days, five murals and seven transformer boxes later, plus a series of youth workshops, the job was done. The colour and variety of the styles show how even the humblest wall or object can be transformed by art.”
What Katanning lacks in silos, it certainly makes up for in exciting art. The beauty of what has been created in Katanning is that you need to take a walk through the town to see all the murals. They pop up in places that you don’t expect and each one plays homage to an aspect of Western Australia’s lifestyle, flora and fauna in their own unique way.
Having never been to this heritage rich colonial town, I was taken by how engaged I was; wanting to get closer, check out the art and really take it all in. The artists that were involved in this project did an amazing job and Katanning is certainly on my list of ‘must-return-to’ places for 2020.
Although Katanning is a country town with a strong focus on agriculture, the label ‘the heart of the south-west’ truly is deserved. With a town hub that is bursting with multi-cultural backgrounds, some amazing recreation and lesuire activities, a newly opened park with huge slides that make me wish I was a kid again the fact that you also have luxury options, creates such a wonderful vibe.
Highlights in Katanning-
Free RV 24 hour Rest Area
Hidden Treasures Bloom Festival
Our final stop, and the southern most silos, Albany
“Western Australia’s southernmost port city has a wealth of urban art to delight the visitor.
There’s the ruby sea dragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) on massive silos by The Yok & Sheryo down at the port, and then in the city centre, a variety of murals by local and international artists.”
Albany was our final stop, a mere 418 km southeast of Perth. Again the CBH grain silos in this port town were the canvas and what a welcome to port this mural is. The ruby sea dragon is only found in a few places in the world and Albany is one of them. This graffiti style art is a talking point for the town and is so very prominent in the area.
Albany was settled in 1826 and is a town with a long and proud history. Albany played a significant a role for the ANZACS- here was the port of call for troopships departing from Australia in World War 1. Albany is home to The National Anzac Centre which provides an interactive walk through of ANZAC history. At this centre you can take your time and truly have an individual experience learning and I will tell you, it is moving. You are given a card which shows the name of a real troop. You follow their journey throughout the centre and it truly does give you a whole new perspective. I left with a whole new outlook on the ANZACS and what they went through. This is a must visit.
Highlights in Albany –
The Gap and other natural wonders
Coorndarup (Mt Clarence) Aboriginal guided walking tour
It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this experience curated by FORMWA. There were so many amazing places, people and I explored more of W.A. than ever – I loved it so much I have a series of features following on; there was way too much to share in one hit!
I have since organised a holiday to head out to Ravensthorpe to round out the full PUBLIC Silo Trail experience, and I can not wait to share it all. If you would like to know more about the artists, the towns or more about FORMWA, head here and get ready to fall in love with our state.
All images are my own and taken on my phone!