Public art movement lights up rural communities

Transformed from a pristine water reservoir into a colored lighthouse amid rocky ranges, Karratha’s new mural is the latest installation in a public art movement sweeping the Washington state area.

From the spectacular Wellington Dam mural in the southwest to silo art in the Wheatbelt, rural Washington state towns have increasingly embraced public art in recent years.

Mega-mural by Guido Van Helten on the Wellington Dam in Collie(ABC Southwest: Anthony Pancia )

A long time to come

For longtime Karratha resident and art enthusiast Nanette Williams, Pilbara’s latest piece shows a welcome change in attitude.

Ms Williams had been pushing for the tank to be painted since the 1980s.

“I used to drive the Balmoral road and every morning the sun would come up just over the beautiful red hills, and there were these two big white tanks,” she said.

“And I used to think, ‘They should be painted in beautiful colors, so when we take this road we have something beautiful coming out of these beautiful red hills.”

A woman standing in front of an interpretation board.
Nanette Williams has been lobbying for public art in Karratha for decades. (Provided: Nanette Williams)

Ms Williams said at the time, when she brought up the idea of ​​public art with the council, she made fun of the room.

Ms Williams recalls asking for art to decorate the Karratha roundabouts during their construction, but she was told it would be too inconvenient for drivers.

“I was like ‘Really ?!’,” she said.

“I felt that if you were building a city – and we even knew then that we were ultimately aiming to become a city – I couldn’t envision a city or town without a lot of public art.”

For Ms. Williams, seeing public art appear across WA country was a dream come true.

“Things have definitely changed,” she said.

Regions the “perfect canvas”

The artist behind Karratha’s mural, Chris Nixon, echoed Ms William’s sentiment.

He said public art shouldn’t be limited to cities.

A water tank painted on a hill in Karratha.
Chris Nixon says the Washington state regional is the perfect location for projects like the Karratha Mural.(ABC Pilbara: Louise Miolin)

“Regions have such an opportunity to not only become another space for murals, but to have art with their own distinct language and identity,” Mr. Nixon said.

Mr. Nixon said he hopes each piece of public art will inspire more communities across the state.

“[It’s about] encourage local creators to be able to install them, and also bring in other experienced artists from other regions, and be able to share this process and this inspiration, ”he said.

“It is this experience that will lift everything”

Color, community and conversations

Mr Nixon said it was extremely gratifying to know that people appreciated his designs, whether people “liked” a work of art or not was not the issue.

For Mr. Nixon, the power of public art in the region lay in its ability to encourage creativity in the community.

“People can see how art can translate and influence everyday life, and stimulate creativity in all industries.”

Norma D. Ross