Public art can appear in surprising places.
You may ask what silos, art, tourism and wellness have to do with each other? We investigate the booming industry in Australia.
The Australian rural Silo Art Trail is Australia’s largest outdoor gallery, stretching over 8,500km and linking Northam in Western Australia with Queensland rural locality Three Moon.
Visually showcasing local historical narratives and site specific aspects of the rural towns like community members, flora and fauna, and agricultural elements. These silos reflect the community identity on a large scale to enrich local identity and attract new audiences to interact with the different locations along the trail’s route.
The Silo Art Trail was conceived in 2016 after the success of the first silo artwork in the Victorian wheat town of Brim northwest of Melbourne. What started as a small community project by the Brim Active Community Group, GrainCorp, street art network Juddy Roller, and Australian street artist, Guido van Helten, resulted in widespread international media attention and an influx of visitors to the region, and the idea for the trail was born, setting a precedent for the Silo Art Trail concept.
The project saw a team of renowned artists from Australia and across the world visit their allocated region and immerse themselves in each community by meeting the locals and translating the host town’s unique stories and wildlife into an epic work of art for each grain silo.
“Often, we look to public art as a way to address a challenge that a city is looking to solve.” — Marianne Dhenin
Beneficial Community-Focused Public Art
Land art defined by its location is a tourism asset, attracting visitors who discover new areas through creative projects and bringing new ways to interact with local histories. Silo art is inherently generous because of its public nature, creating accessible interactions with local culture and storytelling in small previously forgotten towns through planned visits or spontaneous unexpected drive-by interactions. By public art, the painted silos are a good first contact point with small towns and make their sites a destination, bringing cultural, social and economic value. Large-scale visual storytelling is a powerful immersion tool that overcomes difficulties of unfamiliarity to deepen experiential bonds with an unknown location for tourists.
Silo Art and Wellness Tourism
Recently, we have seen the trend of wellness tourism rising as more people are looking for restorative and healing getaway experiences, and here lies a wonderful opportunity to attract visitors to these communities, many of which have a population of under 1,000 people. Dr. Amelia Green’s research in the 2021 Australian Silo Art and Wellbeing Public Report suggests that Silo Art could be the next wellness trend, highlighting its strategic value in building long-term beneficial revitalisation for rural destinations through local culture. Attracting public interest through the gateway of public art can connect tourists to local businesses and town assets featured in the works.
Considerations for Silo Art
Although the trail brings many positive aspects, the project has brought some problems too. The roadside artworks may cause traffic disruption as drivers slow down or pull over to view the works, thus indicating a need to consider how the placement conjuncts with roads and accessibility, especially for works displayed alongside major highways. The long-term nature of the project and its placement outdoors means that the silos are subjected to the natural forces of the environment, making the artwork upkeep and retouching an important consideration to be in tip-top condition for the duration of their lifetime.
The artworks visually tell local stories.
Combining visual storytelling and accompanying written information, art facilitates connection to smaller towns and the ability to discover lesser-known locations. Supplementary information is an important consideration that contextualises the work and situates them in their unique communities. Informational signage and QR codes allow local and visiting attendees to deeper investigate the paintings and their relation to the setting that inspired them.
There are currently 52 Silo Art locations on the Australian Silo Art Trail with many more yet to come. The display is a wonderful opportunity to discover new artists while travelling through the Australian landscape and learn more about the locations where they are displayed. The public gallery is an asset to the Australian countryside and reflects the dynamic and growing prominent role of cultural community storytelling to strengthen local identity, tourism, and wellbeing.
At Art Pharmacy, we are big advocates for, and believers in, the value of art for the community and individual wellbeing. Community-based, site-specific Public Art can have a prominent long-lasting role in shaping cultural identity and brings huge benefits to mental health, illuminating aspects that make a community unique.