Tuesday 24 April’s Age newspaper had a story about some new silo art, created just in time for Australia’s Anzac Day on the 25th. It showed two medics, one from the past (WW1 nurse) the other from pretty-well right now (medic working in Afghanistan). They were enormous and looked fabulous.
Julie and I had a free weekend coming up after my early (6:30) dialysis, so we decided we’d go and see them in the flesh (so to speak).
Silo art is relatively new. In Australia, it started in Western Australia in 2015, with the Avon silos in the WA Wheatbelt, a gigantic area north and east of Perth.
For the uninitiated, the silos I’m talking about are mostly concrete and were built 60-100 years ago to collect grain from the surrounding wheat fields and to load it onto trains that take it to cities or ships for consumption or export. Changes in agriculture, combined with the closure of railway lines, has left hundreds of grain silos in regional Australia abandoned.
These silos have been reused for various community activities, like film projection events, using the concrete silo walls as a screen; cellular or telecommunications towers, or for storage by private companies and farmers.
But by far the most delightful use is for silo art. Since 2015 silos in most states have been painted with a huge variety of artwork, from endangered native animals to real people who live and work in the area.
A quick search on the net shows that Silo Art Tours are becoming very popular, with maps and commentary for most districts. But we wanted to see the latest addition to the collection, not yet on any tour guide, at Devenish, pop. 300, about three hours from Melbourne (and 20 minutes from Benalla).
Art Bonus! When we checked the Benalla website, we discovered that Benalla is a pretty arty city in its own right. Every year since 2015, they hold the Wall to Wall Street Art Festival, where some of the country’s and the world’s best street artists paint the walls of the town and turn it into the street art capital of regional Australia.
Silo art AND street in the same weekend, on one tank of fuel. Sometimes you just get lucky…
So, Saturday morning about 10am, Julie picked me up from dialysis, bright, and perky and full of newly cleaned blood, and off we went. Straight up the Hume Freeway and about 2.5 hrs later we arrived in Benalla and checked in to our motel.
First stop the local bakery for coffee and cake. Excellent. Next, we start the art walk. Fantastic! Here are just a few we found on our rambles.
Dinner at the local pub and a good night’s sleep. Breakfast at a very nice little café; checkout and we head north to Devenish. But wait, there is also silo art on the way, at Goorambat, a few km south of Devenish.
We arrive at Goorambat and the silos, nestled by the railway, dominate the small town. Two artworks, both endangered species: a river redgum and the barking owl. Very impressive. While we’re looking, a grey nomad from a caravan pulls up. We get to talking. There is more silo art just north of Devenish, at Tungamah. Worth a look while we’re here.
Now to Devenish, just a few km up the road. Again, the enormous bulk of the silos are visible from quite a distance. At last, we arrive, joining quite a few others. One look at the silos and we realise that the photos we’ve seen don’t do them justice. Rising 20 metres (65 ft) skywards they are huge and beautiful. (And judging from the way the pub is being frequented, they have done wonders for the local economy.)
The artist, the appropriately named Cam Scale, comes from Melbourne. It took him 11 days to complete both paintings. Amazing.
After coffee and cake at the pub (they have only recently learned how to make it), we set off for Tungamah, 10 km further north.
This time it takes a little searching, but we find it eventually. It’s birds: a huge kookaburra and brolgas dancing in a wheat field. Great to see, but for us, the nurse and medic take the cake.
By 1pm, we’ve seen all the silo art there is to see around here. Gratified and delighted we turn south and head for home. But this won’t be our last silo art tour!
ps: If you want to see some more beautiful silo art, check out the Australia Post silo art stamp set, due out on 21 May 2018:
In memory of Merle, Rest in Peace