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Victoria’s open-air gallery: The Silo Art Trail

Victoria’s open-air gallery: The Silo Art Trail

In small rural towns across Australia, grain silos are becoming canvases for towering artworks.

In rural Australia, concrete silos are often the tallest thing on the horizon – like bush skyscrapers rising 100-feet or more above the surrounding farmlands. These silos started popping up 60 to 100 years ago, when grain production increased and bags of harvest piled up in railway yards because trains couldn’t transport the grain as quickly as it was produced.

A lot of it was lost to the elements and animals. Silos were built to store the grain more effectively and easily load it directly onto rail cars; but as storage methods improved and rail lines closed, many of these silos have been decommissioned. There are hundreds of them across the Australian countryside – proud but obsolete testaments to a bygone era.

In recent years, retired, as well as a few still-functioning, silos have become large-scale canvases for Australian and international artists, who have decorated them with murals that often depict life in the rural communities in which they stand. Across Australia, roughly 45 silos have been painted and grouped together as the Australian Silo Art Trail – with new artworks popping up all the time. The trail spans five states: Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Victoria has two dedicated silo art trails, with 19 painted in total – making it the state with the most in Australia. If you include water towers, that number pushes out to roughly 30 works. They are also tightly grouped and relatively easy to take in quickly. Victoria’s first silo art was created in Brim by street artist Guido van Helten. Completed in early 2016, it depicts a multi-generational quartet of farmers, rendered across four silos. The subjects bear expressions typical of the resilience of local farmers. van Helten explained to the Sydney Morning Herald how he rolled into town with a van full of paint and ‘hung around talking to people trying to get a cultural identity. I feel that an artwork should have a reason for being there,’ he said, ‘otherwise it just becomes decoration’.

The project drew international media attention to the Mallee, and its success was evident through increased tourism throughout the region, which was – at that time – a struggling farming community at the mercy of the elements, a long way down the list of Victorian tourist hotspots. The Brim silo was the second to be included in the broader Australian Silo Art Trail, following Northam.

This is just a sneak peek! To read about the rest of the journey, grab a copy of the Autumn 2024 edition of Caravanning Australia!

Pictured: Grampians Silo Art Trail – Brim by Guido van Helten. Image © Visit Victoria

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