Benalla is not the kind of place you would immediately associate with world-class street art, and even less so Goorambat (in the North East of Victoria, for those wondering). However, thanks to the Wall to Wall Street Art Festival- now in its 4th year- this is a reality I perhaps would never have thought possible growing up on a lamb and cropping farm in the area.
Goorambat is a ‘pub and post office’ kind of place. We regularly push mobs of sheep through the entire length of the town from paddock to shearing shed. Yet here, in an unassuming church, lies a modern-day fresco painted by Melbourne artist Adnate, as well as the unmissable silo painting by Melbourne artist Dvate, created just this year.
These satellite works are a part of the main festival in close-by Benalla, and in creating Wall to Wall, this town has proven itself as a place that supports and celebrates the artistic endeavors of those who live there.
The art is heavily influenced by the local area. From native animals, to Ned Kelly, to portraits of local farmers and landscapes, we’re seeing stereotypes of country Australia both challenged and celebrated. Rural life here is tied to family and history, strong values, good humour, wit, ingenuity and hard work. Most importantly, though sometimes underrepresented, we all share a vision of unwavering hope for the future, and Wall to Wall acknowledges this complexity, and it celebrates it beautifully. This is, in so many ways, what ‘Famously Local’ is all about: the honouring of those sometimes in the background; the recognition of the value of their voice.
This is a movement that we are seeing throughout rural Australia; the festival – along with the Silo Art Trail and other projects in rural communities – is working to rewrite the narrative of what it means to live or visit the country. Where once it was easy to assume these communities held limited opportunities for young people, they are now taking the first step in proving otherwise.
In my not particularly important, but vested, opinion, the Wall to Wall street art festival is one of the best things to happen to Benalla and the surrounding communities. The more we lead by example throughout regional Australia, instilling a sense of value and respect in the arts, culture, and overall interest in the work of young Australians, the more relevant these communities will remain.