On the side of the road on the Dukes Highway which connects Adelaide and Melbourne, is the most amazing mural. It's not on a billboard, it's not on a building - it's on the outer walls of the town's towering 30-metre high grain silos. It's a total show stopper, or at the very least a traffic stopper. This mural is a really big deal for not only Coonalpyn, but for South Australia.
Guido has painted many other landmarks across Australia. Visitors to the Hart's Mill precinct in Port Adelaide will recognise his artwork on the inside wall of the flour mill which was painted as part of the Wonderwalls Festival in 2015.
The steady stream of traffic which previously whizzed past without a blink, now slows and comes to a stop - the silo artwork will convert that highway traffic into positive growth for the town and the people who live there. Drivers have a brilliant reason to stop and there wasn't a single person who stopped, ran to the public toilets, jumped back into their car and left again.
I watched the cars stop and noticed that the people in them got out of their cars. They bought coffees, food and drinks. They sat in the local park. They read the Tourist Information boards. They walked, they rested and they took lots of photographs.
I spoke to a few people: Steven lives in Victoria and is a train driver. His normal train run takes him through the town in the middle of the night. He knew that the silos were being painted so got into his car and came for a drive to have a look in the daylight. Debbie and Sean at the BP service station told of a couple who flew from Sydney to Adelaide, hired a car and drove to Coonalpyn for the day. And, then there's me. My 'quick' Sunday morning visit turned into a whole morning of coffees, breakfast, talking to the locals, walking around, and generally not being able to tear myself away from this very special country town.
Guido's artwork will revitalise the town - it'll bring the tourism dollars into the town where it's been missing for a while. Coonalpyn (population 215) is in a wheat, barley, canola, sheep and cattle producing area. The town is in the Coorong district and the area is formerly known as the Ninety Mile Desert. Drought and economic recession has seen some hard times come to the area in recent years.
Coonalpyn is only 165kms from Adelaide - just 2 hours' drive on the Dukes Highway. Two hours is the recommended time for taking a break while driving and I really can't think of a better place to stop and take a rest than at Coonalpyn.
So, who are the children on the silos? Well, they are all local children, aged between 5 and 8 and they all attend the local junior primary school. Debbie and Sean's son Blake is in the mural - he's the one wearing glasses. He's very proud to be there with his school mates Macey, Kiara and Reef. Guido spent a day at the school and held an art workshop with the kids. While there, he took photos of the children and then chose the faces for his artwork. Once finished, there will be a total of 5 portraits painted onto the silos.
Coonalpyn is the perfect spot for Guido's latest art installation. The townspeople have come together as one and have totally embraced both him and art. They are so very excited about this project and what it means for the area. They are proud of their town, they're enthusiastic about their community and they are passionate about art.
Guido van Helten is an artist who specialises in large scale murals. His work can be seen in Australia, the USA, Ukraine, Mexico, Iceland and in many countries across Europe.
His work is breathtaking and truly spectacular. The project has come to life thanks to the hard working team in the Coonalpyn Arts Group. They gained funding for the project through the Coorong District Council, Country Arts SA and local sponsors. The grant, worth $80,000 is the basis of the "Creating Coonalpyn" Rural Renewal Through The Arts initiative. The silos are one part of a series of 6 art installations and events happening in the town. The tunnel that runs under the railway tracks is lined with artworks, there's a magnificent wedge-tailed eagle on a fence and, very soon, a giant mosaic will be on display in the main street as well.
My plan is to re-visit Coonalpyn and write a separate article on the beautification of their town and to see all of the finished art installations. I really can't wait to get back there and spend time in this town again. You should too - it's worth the drive.
This work of art looks so good...it will no doubt cause people to take a pause in this tiny town and thereby benefit the locals, who have businesses there that cater to tourists.Having passed through this town may times a long time ago,this town had nothing to offer,accept a drink at the pub.
For over 30 years I have done many trips across the Melbourne - Adelaide highways. Now I have taken to flying I find there is 'art' appearing on these often desolate highways.Looks a road trip is back on the agenda. Thanks Paula.
I live in Adelaide and have taken several trips to Coonalpyn just to see the murals. Last trip was a week ago and there were only 4 figures. One week later and I can see the last figure has already been started. Looks like another trip is due next week. Not only is this good for local business but you get to chat with so many people who have stopped to admire the art work.