Tumby Bay silo art a giant splash of colour

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By Melissa Keogh

It took 430 litres of paint and 400 hours of work, but Tumby Bay’s own silo mural is finally complete – and it’s quite the masterpiece.

The town’s giant grain silos, about 50km north of Port Lincoln on the Lincoln Highway, are now splashed with colour and show two young boys jetty jumping.

The 2200 sq m mural was painted by Argentinean artist Martin Ron over five weeks, with the project overseen by a sub-committee within the Tumby Bay Progress Association.

Tumby Bay now joins the regional towns of Coonalpyn and Kimba, which also have giant artworks sprawled across grain handler Viterra’s silos, helping to boost community pride and bring the small country towns back to life.

PHOTO: Robert Lang Photography.

The Tumby Bay silo mural will be officially launched on Thursday, April 19, on the eve of the Colour Tumby Street Art Festival.

Association member and silo mural project leader Dion LeBrun says local businesses are already reporting an increase in trade from visitors exploring the new attraction.

“We’ve had a huge increase in visitation, and businesses such as local cafés, bakeries and hotels have all reported a big increase in what they’re turning over,” he says.

“The Tumby Bay Bakery said they’ve never been busier except for in the Christmas and New Year period.”

Martin is unable to attend the official launch on Thursday, as he has already flown to Russia to paint a mural on a 15-storey building in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Argentinean artist Martin Ron. PHOTO: Robert Lang Photography.

The international street artist was assisted by Sydney artist Matt Gorrick. Both men were lifted up in cherry pickers to paint the high parts of the silos.

The project was funded through an $80,000 Fund My Neighbourhood grant.

Dion, a long-time Tumby Bay resident, says the silo mural is just one of the rejuvenation projects led by the progress association in the past 12 months to boost the town’s profile.

“We needed to give the town a difference, something to give us that extra hook to make Tumby Bay a preferred holiday destination,” he says.

“So halfway through last year we thought, ‘why don’t we throw a silo art in the mix?’ Other towns that have done it had really great exposure and it brought a lot of outside money into the town.”

Cherry pickers were used to help the artists reach the high parts of the silos.

The progress association sought advice on the project from a street art and mural studio in Melbourne and was put in touch with Martin Ron.

Martin then spent over a week in Tumby Bay, touring the town and looking over historical photos to find ideas.

During this time he saw local kids jumping off the jetty and eventually made a splash himself on a hot day.

The mural was also inspired by a photograph snapped in 2014 by local photographer Robert Lang who captured two boys jetty jumping – a popular summertime activity.

Dion says the Tumby Bay silo mural was more difficult to paint than other silo works because the images ran horizontally across the structure, instead of vertically.

The mural took five weeks to complete and 430 litres of paint. PHOTO: Robert Lang Photography.

“Silos are very complex pieces of art with winding shapes and slopes,” he says.

“According to Martin we’ve really raised the bar for silo mural art because of the level of complexity involved in laying the image horizontally.”

Martin told The Port Lincoln Times that the Tumby Bay silo mural was the biggest one he had ever done.

The small farming town has a population of about 2600 people and is home to the second largest ageing population in SA, behind Victor Harbor.

Although Tumby Bay is renowned for good fishing and unspoilt coastlines, Dion says the town needed something more.

Colour Tumby Street Art Group members gather with Martin Ron at the silo mural. PHOTO: Robert Lang Photography.

“It’s a very slow town and businesses are finding it tough. So the whole idea was to give visitors to the town more to do,” he says.

A car park has been constructed near the silo, allowing for visitors to safely pull off the highway – which has a 100km/h speed limit – and see the silos from the “optimum viewing angle”.

The mural will be officially launched on April 19, leading into the Colour Tumby Art Festival from April 20–22. The festival will feature eight artists transforming building walls across town into works of art.

Head to the event’s Facebook page for more information.

Eyre Peninsula photographer Robert Lang with the photo he shot in 2014 that went on to inspire the silo mural.

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