Take a Drive Along North East Victoria’s Silo Art Trail – Just 33 Kilometres From the First Silos to the Last
In mid-April 2019, I travelled with a small group to view North East Victoria’s silo artwork. I returned in December 2020 because artists had completed painting silos or had painted additional murals since my last visit. My return trip included a friend who was eager for a day out and interested in viewing the updated silo artworks.
This post is an updated version of the original post, “Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna”. Originally published May 6, 2019, it was updated January 10, 2021; providing up-to-date information and photos.
Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (the first being undertaken in 2015) have become a national phenomenon, appearing in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australian, South Australia, and Queensland. The silos provide a canvas for creations that are, hopefully, reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest and remote regional towns. Considered to be a lifesaver for rural communities by bringing tourism to towns that have been seriously struggling due to economic decline, towns expect the painted silos will breathe new life into their districts.
Perhaps the best known are the painted silos in western Victoria; in the Wimmera-Mallee region. These six painted silos stretch for 200 kilometres from Rupanyup in the south to Patchewollock in the north.
I took a road trip with my sister to these painted silos at the end of April 2019 and have written a blog post on them. For everything you need to know on these silos, read AMAZING SILO ART – powerful connections of people and landscapes.
Located in four small towns between Yarrawonga and Benalla – Tungamah, St James, Devenish and Goorambat – the painted silos of North East Victoria are relatively recent attractions to these towns, with the first painting completed in 2018. At a distance of 33 kilometres from the first silos to the last, they are close to each other.
Why you should see the silo artworks
- This is street art at its best.
- The murals are painted on an unusual ‘canvas’.
- The artworks are in a public space; in open-air galleries, open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And they are free to visit.
- It is artwork on a massive scale. How many paintings do you know that require an extended cherry picker to complete?
- The murals painted on the silos depict local history and fauna; giving an insight into the area.
- The silos themselves have been ‘painted’ on Australia’s rural landscape since the 1920s.
Coming from Wodonga, North East Victoria’s silo artworks are an easy one-day road trip. From this direction, the first painted silos are at Tungamah; about 1 and a half hours from Wodonga.
Leaving Wodonga on the M31 (Sydney to Melbourne freeway), turn off at the Rutherglen/Yarrawonga exit (B400; Murray Valley Highway). At Rutherglen, take the C372 to Tungamah; skirting the towns of Bundalong South, Yarrawonga South and Boomahnoomoonah (no, I have not made up this name).
Coming from Melbourne is not, in my opinion, a day road trip. The first painted silos from this direction are at Goorambat – a distance of 228 kilometres; taking about 2 and a half hours. Staying overnight in Benalla might be a good option.
From Melbourne, take the M31 (Melbourne to Sydney freeway) to Benalla. At Benalla, take the A300 to Goorambat.
Tungamah silo art
The privately-owned Tungamah concrete silo highlights Australia’s dancing Brolga. Famed for their elaborate courtship dance, Brolgas are Australia’s most iconic birds. There is even an Australian Christmas carol about dancing Brolgas.
Several traditional Aboriginal legends and dances are associated with the Brolga, with movements mimicking their graceful performance.
The Kookaburra painted on the metal silo is a well-known symbol of Australia’s birdlife. The Kookaburra is also the inspirational subject of a children’s song.
The Brolgas and Kookaburra completed the first stage (February 2018) of the Tungamah silo artwork. In September 2019, the artist returned to paint other birdlife, filling in the silo around the Kookaburra. A Pink and Grey Galah, a Kingfisher, an Owl, a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, two Blue Wrens, and an Ibis were painted on the metal silo to complete the mural. Can you spot the Owl hiding in the leaves and the Ibis sitting among the grasses?
Western Australian street artist, Sobrane painted the birdlife on the Tungamah silos using spray cans and roller. Internationally known for her signature bird-inspired art, Sobrane was the first Australian female artist to take on a silo art project.
St James silo art
The GrainCorp-owned wheat silos at St James, painted in sepia tones, represent the life of yesteryear. The portrait on the concrete silo to the left in the first photo below is that of Sir George Coles, the founder of Coles supermarkets and a local of St James. His first store opened in 1910 in St James township; with the shopfront captured on the silo under his portrait.
The murals were a work in progress at the time of my first visit in April 2019. The Clydesdale horses carting bags of wheat was being painted at the time of my visit in 2019. Depicting how farmers historically delivered their grain to the silos, motor vehicles eventually replaced the horse and cart.
The mural on the concrete silo to the right in the first photo below, a blank canvas in April 2019, shows two local men sowing up bags of wheat in readiness for transport.
Local artist, Timothy Bowtell painted the murals on the St James silos. Timothy is due to complete the horse and cart mural by the end of April 2019.
Devenish silo art
Focusing on nurses’ role in service and how that role has evolved, this artwork is a visual tribute to the 50 young men and women from the Devenish community who enlisted in military service in the First World War. The paintings represent a First World War nurse’s historical image juxtaposed with that of a female combat medic, whilst highlighting the role women play in military service.
Melbourne street artist, Cam Scale, has captured the past and present and acknowledges the critical role our medical personnel play in caring for military and civilians during wars and national disasters, including peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
Completed after my first visit to the North East silo artworks, Cam has painted a World War One Australian Light Horseman and his horse on Devenish’s final silo.
Cam Scale is a well-renown fine artist and mural painter in Australia; exhibiting work in galleries across Australia and internationally.
Cam works primarily with aerosol, oil and acrylic, specialising in large-scale figures and portraits.
Goorambat silo art
The Barking Owl painted on the concrete silo is a tribute to this endangered species. With fewer than 50 breeding pairs in the wild, the Barking Owl is the most threatened owl in Victoria. North East Victoria remains a stronghold for wild populations.
Ironbark is the Barking Owl’s habitat. This tree is depicted in the forefront of the typical, Australiana farming scene on the second silo.
The third silo features three Clydesdale horses that resided in Goorambat. Clydesdales are an intricate part of the Goorambat area. They are literally the work-horses of the country and rural areas like Goorambat might not exist without them.
Jimmy Dvate is a Melbourne based artist and graphic designer. He is passionate about conservation and is particularly keen to highlight the plight of endangered species.
While in Goorambat, don’t miss the beautiful mural of “Sophia” painted by the artist, Adnate inside Goorambat’s Uniting Church. Painted in 2017, Sophia was created to depict the female aspect of the Holy Spirit. This tradition draws on God’s spirit as manifested in the Old Testament times and the post-Pentecostal period. Sophia is by nature wise, nurturing, comforting, inspirational and ever-present.
You can visit “Sophia” daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Where to eat
On my first visit to the North East Victoria silo artworks, we had morning tea, cake and coffee, at the heritage-listed Tungamah Hotel. I recommend the lemon slice.
However, I strongly suggest contacting Tungamah Hotel to check their opening hours if wanting morning tea. My friend and I arrived in Tungamah at 10.30 am, only to find the pub closed. I later found out the pub had opened specifically for the group booking in April 2019.
There is a general store across the road from Tungamah Hotel where my friend and I ordered coffee. I don’t know what beans they were using, but the coffee would have to be one of the worst I have ever tasted.
On the group trip (2019), we lunched at Goorambat’s Railway Hotel. With an extensive, reasonably priced menu, we were spoilt for choice. My hamburger was delicious.
As Benalla is only a 15-minute drive from Goorambat, and we were free agents not tied to the demands of a group, my friend and I decided, on this revisit trip, to lunch in Benalla rather than at Goorambat’s Railway Hotel. We lunched at Bouwmeesters Bakery on Bridge Street. With so many cafes available in Benalla, we could have made a wiser choice.
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To read my other posts on silo art in Australia, open the links below:
Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.