Country communities across Australia are watching the rise of silo art with growing interest … and many are eager to grab a slice of the action.
The South Australian towns of Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsula town is the latest to look at painting its giant white silos in order to draw in grey nomads and other travellers.
However, as more examples of silo art spring up, some are warning they could become victims of their own success.
Dr Jane Andrew, director of the University of South Australia’s Match Studio, told the Advertiser newspaper that there is some danger of silo art and street murals becoming so common that they’re seen as ‘me-too samey’.
She likens the current big-art phenomenon in the country to the giant industry-linked sculptures, such as the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, and the Big Lobster, most of which were built in the 1960s and ‘70s.
However, she says good art will always be better than a blank wall and the specific art chosen can mean a great deal to a community … and they give struggling towns a sense of identity, and a sense of purpose.
“The process of going through this, getting organised, applying for grants and working together can be really good for a community,” she said.
The town of Coonalpyn, which unveiled its silo art back in March has certainly seen a wider benefit than simply an upsurge in grey nomad numbers.
The district council’s chief executive, Vincent Cammell, told the Advertiser that the project had “really changed the fabric of the town and brought it together in a way I don’t think has happened in a long time”.
And in Kimba, where the recently unveiled silo art has been exceptionally well received, the next phase of the community project is already under way as it starts to seek funds to install solar-power floodlights to illuminate the silos each night.
Back in Tumby Bay, the Vittera grain-handling company, which owns the town’s silos has made them available free of charge, but $85,000 still needs to be raised to get them painted and a planned arts festival up and running.
And then there’s the challenge of adding something different to the silo art mix. The painted silos around Australia so far largely feature rural scenes and children, but Tumby Bay will be keen to go for something very different to keep the idea fresh.
And, that challenge in itself, will be enough to generate discussion and community involvement.
“People have got to start looking at what’s best for the long-term future of their town,” said farmer Dion LeBrun, one of the people driving the Colour Tumby project. “A town that’s stagnant and stuck in the past is not going to be a vibrant town for long.”