Victoria’s North East is quietly becoming an arts centre, take Benalla for example. The picturesque country town is covered in art, with art work created by local, national and even internationally renowned artists, largely due to the Wall to Wall Festival which has bought a new buzz to the town. It is not this wall art which we recently explored, although Benalla was the home base for our adventure through the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail.
Using a map, as inspiration, that was put together by Benalla’s tourist information centre “Enjoy Benalla”, the map can be found on their website www.enjoybenalla.com.au. (Side note I am not being paid to endorse their website it is just a source of information that I found useful and felt compelled to share so that others can do the same.). Armed with this map we planned out our trip of the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail, which is easily accomplished in a single day of exploring, starting in Benalla then onto the towns of Goorambat, Devenish, St. James and Tungamah before finishing our day with a visit to the Winton Wetlands to view some of the art out there.
Setting out mid morning, we exited Benalla, via the Midland Hwy (Shepparton Rd), before turning onto the Benalla-Tocumwal Rd towards our first destination. Our first stop on the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail was Goorambat and inparticular the Goorambat Grain Silos, which are located in the heart of the town, just across the road from the local pub.
The artwork on the Goorambat silos was created by artist Jimmy DVate. From the Benalla side of the silos DVate has painted two separate murals, one of the Ironbark forest that neighbours the township, and the second being “Millie”, an Australian Barking Owl, a species which inhabits the Ironbark Forests. According to the information board Jimmy DVate has hidden his “Tag” in his painting of “Millie”. I’m buggered if I can find it and I have looked repeatedly at photos of it, I’m sure it is plain as day when pointed out. Have you Found It? Let me know if you have had more luck than me.
On the Northern silo Jimmy DVate has also painted “Clem, Sam and Banjo”, three amazing Clydesdales working in the cropping fields. This stunningly detailed artwork highlights the relationship and history that Clydesdales and the Goorambat farming community have shared over the years.
Just down the road, inside the local church is “Sophia” a very spirtual mural, by artist Adnate, which adornes the back wall.
From Goorambat we ventured further through the canola fields and made our way to Devenish via the Devenish Rd. This is the back road from Goorambat to Devenish that offers a more “localised” route from one town to the next.
The Devenish silos and the artwork that graces them have become a large tribute to the men and women, from the local community, who enlisted in the military. With a focus on the evolution of military nurses throughout the years, artist Cam Scale has produced a moving and heart felt tribute on the walls of the Devenish Silos.
The two larger silos depict two female military nurses, both a lifetime apart, yet with so much in common. One a modern combat nurse with a steely resolve preparing to carry out her duties, the other a World War 1 nurse with her soothing gentleness, about to tend to a soldiers wounds, both sharing the calm demeanour that their respective roles require.
The third smaller silo is a tribute to the Australian Light Horse and the pride and honour that went with being a part of the specialised regiment.
Before venturing any further we took the chance to stop at the Devenish playground for a lunch break and give the kids a chance to have a play.
Keeping to the backroads theme, we continued along the Devenish Rd, to St. James, where we would find the next pieces of amazing artwork, this time painted by local artist Tim Bowtell. Tim’s stunning artwork is a throwback to the history of the town and its links to what has become a staple for many Australians day to day living, Coles Supermarkets.
The first silo depicts Clydesdales working the local wheat fields, a common sight in a time where tractors were not around. The second Silo is a tribute to a changing of the guard, to a time when motor vehicles were starting to take over the work load from the draught horses, by painting a local producers truck carrying a load of wheat bags.
The third silo is a glowing tribute to Sir G.J. Coles, arguably the man who put St. James’s name on the map in lights, and his North Eastern Stores, the precurser store to the now mega Coles Supermarkets. The fourth silo is a tip of the hat to the hardworking wheat farmers of yesteryear.
The artwork portrayed by Tim Bowtell in the town of St. James is nothing short of amazing and really highlights the talent that is hidden within the Benalla District.
Just around the corner from the silos is the site of the original North Eastern Stores, today marked by a plaque celebrating the history the store helped to create.
Continuing north, along the Devenish Rd, through the golden canola fields we made our way to Tungamah to view the silo artwork produced by Western Australian artist Sobrane.
Sobranes unique artwork showcases some native bird life, the first being a Kookaburra sitting there looking around, and on the larger silos she has painted a pair of Brolgas frollicing through the fields.
On a side note, since we have completed our tour of the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail, Sobrane has been back and added to her artwork on the silos, as well as completing some additional artwork on a nearby bus shelter. I hope to get back to Tungamah soon and check out the new art that Sobrane has added.
From Tungamah we made our way east to the Benalla-Yarrawonga Rd and headed south back towards Benalla, but not before detouring out the Lake Mokoan Rd to the Mokoan Hub for some afternoon tea, and a sneaky cold beer, as well as allow the kids a chance to stretch their legs on the awesome little playround at the hub.
Once we were all done playing, we are all kids at heart aren’t we?, we made our way into the Winton Wetlands to check out the water tank art, by Guido Van Helten. Along the way you will get to see the creative fish tree art that is capitvatingly spread out over numerous dead old river gums. Whilst driving through the wetlands, keep an eye out for the vast array of native wildlife, as it is not uncommon to see Kangaroos and Eagles among a myriad of other wildlife.
The water tank in question appears to be used as a CFA water reserve and as such artist Guido Van Helten has painted a mesmerising tribute to the men and women who volunteer their time to the local fire brigades. He has been able to blend three individual portraits into one moving mural honouring and showcasing the beautiful souls behind the local volunteer firefighters.
One enjoyable aspect of following a trail such as the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail, is the chance to meet new faces along the way and getting to share stories, such as the Englishman we met at Devenish, who was on holidays visiting family. He was amazed at the artwork in the whole of the Benalla District and even more stunned that the artwork is graffiti free. He went on to tell me that back in Peterborough in the UK, where he was from, similiar street art attempts had been made however as soon as the street art was completed it was graffitied over, so he was happy and amazed to see this artwork continuing to glow.
I also got to meet and talk to a retired couple at the Mokoan Hub, we had crossed paths various times throughout the day, who were from Bairnsdale and touring around, proving that the North East Victorian Silo Art Trail is doing wonders for the local economies.
You may see me on our next adventure, if you do, come over and say hello. In the mean time, if you would like to learn the basics on how to maintain your car so that you can confidently jump in and go on your own adventure then send me an email to find out more. Until then get out there and keep making tracks on every road.