Coonalpyn's Painted Silos

Growing up in Adelaide, but now living in Melbourne, I can often be found driving between the two cities on one trip or another whether it be to catch up with family or friends or attend some event or another.

So it's fair to say that I've come to know the 700+ km stretch of road between here and there pretty well.

And what I can say is that for the most part there is not a great deal to distract you from the road ahead.

Sure we have a giant koala at Dadswell's Bridge and there are plenty of detours off the highway to interesting places, but travelling through the smaller towns that line the highway is rarely more than a case of changing down a gear and cruising on through.

This is no reflection on the towns themselves but just the reality that they all offer pretty much the same thing as the next and so stops on the trip are generally based around the timing of the trip rather than what one town offers more than another.

And I guess for the people who live in these small rural towns, that has been their challenge.

Finding a way to encourage travellers to stop and spend some time (and a few dollars) in their little piece of the world is no easy task.

Traditionally one proven method of encouraging visitors to your town was to create something BIG - like the giant koala at Dadswell's Bridge or the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour and the many other oversized sculptures around the country needing to be visited and checked off of bucket lists.

But in a new, and frankly refreshing evolution of the idea, the Coorong District Council has enlisted the very talented Australian artist, Guido van Helten, to paint a giant mural on Coonalpyn's 30 metre high 5 cell silos located right in the heart of the town.

Given creative license to design a mural that he felt best reflected the Coonalpyn community, Guido chose to paint five of the towns primary school children which offers a 'focus on renewal and the future'.

In Guido's own words he describes the mural as . . .

“…representative of growth in creativity, community spirit and local identity . . . In contrast to historical or industry focussed designs, which rely on nostalgia of the past, this design brings together the simplicity of playful interactions with the silo’s structure architecturally and hopes to serve as a catalyst for creative thinking to the artworks audience and the community of Coonalpyn in the future.”

“…the design does not focus attention on portraiture, or the children’s faces entirely and instead brings together movement around the circular and architectural features of the silo complex. The completed work will incorporate the south, east and north faces promoting an interactive viewing . . . encouraging visitors to park and walk around the silo to photograph different viewing points.”

The mural was painted over February and March and since it's unveiling it is already stopping traffic with up to 3 cars per minute pulling over to marvel at South Australia's newest and largest art canvas.
Amongst the youngest residents of the town there is a sense of excitement about the the towns future and a renewed hope for what they can achieve themselves.

From first hand experience I can vouch for the fact that driving into the town you cannot help but be impressed with the giant mural and you are definitely compelled to stop and admire it and take some photos.

But more than being impressive just because of it's size, the mural does strike a deeper emotional chord.

Driving away from Coonalpyn and continuing on to Adelaide I thought about how inspired an idea it was to paint the local school kids on the silos, because just like the silos themselves which store the grain from the district at the end of each harvest, it's Coonalpyn's children that hold the future prosperity of the town.

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