Mural festival to pull in the tourists

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Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
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Mt Barker Senior Sargeant David Johnson and Plantagenet Shire President Chris Pavlovich with one of the walls to be used for a mural later this year.
Camera IconMt Barker Senior Sargeant David Johnson and Plantagenet Shire President Chris Pavlovich with one of the walls to be used for a mural later this year. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

A local police officer’s vision for a mural trail and a wall art festival in Mt Barker is set to become a reality.

With the Shire of Plantagenet creating an urgent item to back the proposal at its recent council meeting, Sergeant David Johnson’s idea has gained momentum.

Each year Sgt Johnson travels to the US to take part in the annual Walldogs mural festival.

The Walldogs are a group of more than 250 sign painters and artists who come together once a year in a chosen small town and paint 16 murals capturing historical local people, places or events.

Now, a similar festival called Mountain and Murals is being created in the Great Southern and members of the Walldogs are heading here to help.

Plantagenet councillors backed the idea and a committee has been formed to bring it to life.

Sgt Johnson said the festival started out as a small project to paint one mural as a project between police and some indigenous artists from the Great Southern Noongar Emerging Leaders Group.

“My bosses at the Great Southern district police office were very supportive, as were the Shire of Plantagenet,” he said.

“From there it gained some momentum very quickly and when I was able to convince Jay Allen from Illinois, USA, who is the founder of the Walldogs, Anat Ronen from Houston Texas and Mike Bromley from Wolfe Island in Canada to come, it quickly tuned into a reasonably large four-day mural festival.

“The murals present an opportunity to work with local and Aboriginal artists and expose them to our visiting American Walldogs who are considered some of the best mural painters in the world.

“We hope to create four or five murals that blend together the Walldogs style of mural painting and indigenous art to create large scale murals that will capture the history of our town for future generations.”

It will be the first time the Walldogs have visited Australia and organisers hope to tie the murals in with a fair on the Sunday and showcase local wine, wares and food.

While his role as a police officer is not fundamental to his motivation, he said it would give him the chance to meet with people who might not otherwise interact with police.

“It also allows me to work with groups that can both learn something from me, but also give me a chance to learn something from them,” Sgt Johnson said.

“I have a passion for hand- painted signs and just saw an opportunity to create a point of difference for Mount Barker.

“We compete with the coastal towns for part of the tourist market and we need something different here.

Walldog-style murals are very effective and I have witnessed the economic benefits in the towns across the USA who attract the Walldogs.

“Our style is very different from standard murals painted here and we hope to create a unique feature in Mount Barker that will attract visitors.”

The mural festival will run from Friday, December 6 to Tuesday, December 10, with the main fair taking place at the Shire offices on the Sunday.

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