The Wynyard Centre is in line to receive a colourful facelift at the end of October, with a collaboration between graffiti artist Houl and local teenagers in the works.
The inside wall of the centre carpark already features a work by Houl and Tumut High School students, and a recent $3000 Public Arts Grant from the Snowy Valleys Council means the outside wall can be given the same treatment.
The initial mural was conceived as a way to discourage offensive tagging in the car park by using street art in a way that engaged the local community.
According to Youth Development Officer Evan Saunders, the project last year was an unmitigated success.
“That area that we painted was so dark, one corner was all black because it used to be a smoke room in the twentieth century, and it just got trashed,” he said. “There’s only been one little scribble since then.
“Everyone that’s talked about it says it looks fantastic – I’ve heard almost nothing but positive stuff. It just goes to show that even when people say, you know, that art isn’t their cup of tea, they can still appreciate it and find it really positive.”
Graffiti artist Houl – James Houlcroft to his mum – who is also a teacher in the ACT, worked with Tumut students on the original design. He said that this time round he plans on being even more collaborative with the participating students.
“It’s their space and having them take pride in it is going to come from them having a greater say in it,” he said. “Seeing their voice in the final design is going to be much better than having someone they don’t know come in and say ‘this is my wall now.’”
The project is open to anyone who is interested in joining in, but there are limited spaces – Mr Saunders says 10-12 people is the ideal number to cooperate on the artwork.
The combination of graffiti with community engagement and education may seem like an odd one, but Mr Houlcroft says he has found it a valuable resource in his own teaching.
“I’d been painting before I got my first position as a teacher and at first I really tried to hide it. There is a lot of stigma around painting with aerosols – I don’t paint illegally, but I was still a bit scared that once the students and school found out there’d be retribution,” he said. “But then I realised that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and embraced it.”
“It’s part of who I am now as a teacher. I bring my art into the classroom and work with kids on it.”
The grant to fund the artwork was given to the Wynyard Centre Arts Hub as part of a series of Community Strengthening and Public Arts grants across the region. 12 organisations received grants for a variety of projects, including the Tumut Art Society, the Adelong Men’s Shed and the Tumut Showground Trust.