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New garden mural at old Mt Barker primary school site pays tribute to artistic talents of Diane McDonald

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Kasey GrattonAlbany Advertiser
The mural on the old primary school site.
Camera IconThe mural on the old primary school site. Credit: Phil Tunstall

A new mural has been completed in Mt Barker, bringing the colour and charm of an English country garden to the town while also paying tribute to the artistic talents of a local man’s late sister.

Horticulturalist Phil Tunstall commissioned the mural for the site, a former primary school on the corner of Albany Highway and Oatlands Road, in homage to his sister, Diane McDonald, who died after a battle with cancer last year.

Ms McDonald was an artist, and Mr Tunstall chose to recreate one of the last artworks she created as a mural on the old school site, which he now owns.

“Di was the most radiant, warm, positive person and I wanted to honour her memory in some way,” Mr Tunstall said.

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“I saw Di’s last pieces hanging in the family home when I visited Brisbane for her funeral, and when the family told me they were going to stage an art exhibition in her honour, it spurred me on to do something myself.”

Porongurup artist Alexandra Spargo was enlisted to paint the mural, completing it in about 55 hours.

Mr Tunstall said Spargo did a “brilliant job” at recreating the colourful cottage and English garden his sister originally depicted in her work.

“It was so good that it brought a tear to my eye when I saw the finished product,” Mr Tunstall said.

“Di’s husband, Ron, and kids over in Queensland were blown away when I sent them the pictures.”

Mr Tunstall is working to revamp the once-derelict old school property, which also features a mural painted by Carlene Eades and a Mediterranean garden mural by Natalie Veal.

He said another three murals with a horticultural theme were planned for the site, complemented by new landscaping that would be planted later this year.

“The plan is to develop a horticultural oasis,” Mr Tunstall said.

“With around 400m of Albany Highway frontage, which will eventually be meticulously landscaped, it should become a traffic-stopping garden and help Mt Barker to become more of a destination.”

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