Follow the WA Public Silo Trail
It has been said that the space and freedom of Western Australia helps creatives to thrive, while the warm light and rich colours attract visual artists.
There's also an appetite for community art events to bring art to the people instead of enclosing it in galleries. Put all these factors together, and it's no wonder that highly visible public artworks, sculpture and wall art are all growing and thriving in the Perth region.
The Public Silo Trail, completed in 2018, evolved over three years. Top artists from Australia and overseas created huge murals on grain silos in Northam, Ravensthorpe, Merredin, Albany, Newdegate and Pingrup, as well as street wall art and works painted onto transformer boxes in Katanning. Art lovers will appreciate the towering concrete canvases that transform the rural landscape in key towns around the southern part of the state.
Behind the silo artwork project is the desire to tell stories about rural and coastal WA, the landscape, way of life and people, in a way that encourages us to get off the beaten track and explore new places. In doing so, we come to understand a little more about the resilience and spirit of the people, the industries that we depend on, and the flora and fauna we rarely see.
The Public Silo Trail begins in the Perth town of Northam, and then takes you 165km east into the Wheatbelt. From there, you can wind your way south to the coastal town of Albany. In this article, we focus on the trip from Fremantle to Northam - a route that incorporates a rich variety of experiences, finishing with your first taste of the Public Silo Trail. There's so much to see and do in Fremantle, Perth City, the Avon Valley, Swan Valley and Perth Hills that it's worth taking a few days over this route, especially if you're new to WA.
Begin in Fremantle, where you'll find plenty of wall art around the cafe strips right down to the famous East West Design building near the beach in South Fremantle, covered in one of the largest pieces of mural art you'll see.
In Perth City, follow a public art trail to discover the artworks dotted around the city. The following articles have lots of information: Public Art Walks in Perth and Perth City Public Art Walks. One to add is Ascalon in Cathedral Square - an abstract representation of St George and the Dragon by WA's Marcus Canning and Christian de Vietri.
Most Instagrammable Spots in Perth expands on the public art to be found in Perth and Fremantle. There's no doubt you'll be taking lots of photos, and the showcase of creativity is sure to whet your appetite for the massive silo artworks waiting for you in Northam.
Guildford & the Swan Valley
As the first community of the Swan River Colony, this heritage town is a joy for anyone interested in antiques and pioneer architecture. Established in 1829, Guildford's position on the Swan River turned it into a significant market town. This only changed when railways took over from river transport, and Midland then became the commercial hub.
Visit the Swan Valley Visitor Centre in Guildford Courthouse and ask about heritage trails around the town, which will take you past several 19th century buildings. There are plenty of antique shops, and some fabulous historic pubs for lunch.
Before you leave, take at least a day to explore the Swan Valley wineries, artisan food outlets, fresh produce stalls, art and craft shops, and galleries. Lots of amazing cafes and restaurants overlook the vineyards - a wonderful way to spend the evening. You'll be tempted to sleep over, so consider booking ahead at the fabulous Mandoon Estate, Novotel Vines Resort or Swan Valley Oasis Resort.
Mundaring & the Perth Hills
The bike trail kicks off from Mundaring Community Sculpture Park - no silo artworks here, but it's a great spot to enjoy some quirky and interesting pieces by local sculptors. For those travelling with kids, this is also a play area with space to let off steam and have a picnic.
If you prefer a leisurely walk, you're in luck because the famous Bibbulmun Track passes right through Mundaring, winding its way from nearby Kalamunda to Albany on the south coast. You can follow a section of it or stroll along the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, which follows the old railway line.
The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail begins at Mundaring Weir, where the No 1 Pump Station museum tells the story of the longest freshwater pipeline in the world. This trail takes you all the way through Northam to Merredin - the first two locations on the Public Silo Trail, giving you more stepping stones along the way.
Toodyay & the Avon Valley
If you have time, take a detour via Toodyay to make the most of the Avon Valley. Both Toodyay and Northam are on the route of the Avon Descent whitewater race, which takes place in August, following the picturesque Avon River and Swan River all the way to Perth.
Toodyay is another delightful heritage town, and a hub for artists and artisans. Enjoy browsing the arts, crafts and antique shops, watch the world go by in a cosy cafe and consider staying overnight in the quirky Toodyay Art Shack, a countryside retreat or an olde worlde hotel such as Freemasons.
Drop into the Toodyay Visitor Centre for more information on the town and surrounds. Connor's Mill and Newcastle Gaol are essential pieces of pioneer history to take in before you move on to Northam to see the silo artworks. At the old flour mill you can see ancient working machinery, and the gaol, built in the 1860s, adds another layer to the story of Toodyay.
Northam & the Silo Artworks
The heritage town of Northam sits on the banks of the Avon River, with lots of space to play and picnic. It's packed with historic buildings and larger than Toodyay, which feels more like a sleepy rural settlement. As an agricultural hub, Northam's style is more industrial, making it an excellent place to start the Public Silo Trail.
The new silo artworks are a whopping 38 metres high, painted onto four silos side by side - quite a spectacle! Situated right in the midst of a fully working CBH Group receival site, this is likely to become an icon for those who appreciate industrial art and architecture. It was business as usual, with grain trucks coming and going, as the two artists created an explosion of imagery and colour on the huge silos.
Created by Alex Brewer (aka Hense) from the US and London artist Phlegm, the silo artworks took two weeks to complete, the artists hanging off the arm of a boom lift and using brushes strapped to poles. The combination of Phlegm's quirky characters and Hense's colourful abstracts is striking and needs to be seen in the real world.
If you're looking for more activity in Northam, it's a magnet for hang-gliding, whitewater rafting and hot air ballooning. Staff at the Northam Visitor Centre will be happy to guide you. If you want to stay for a while, it's worth making the 25 minute drive to the stunning heritage town of York, WA's first inland European settlement and steeped in history. Try Lavendale Farmstay or The Nosh & Nod.
Merredin & the Wheatbelt
If you're keen to keep going, drive the 165km into WA's wheatbelt to the tiny town of Merredin, next stop on the Public Silo Trail and home to No 4 Pump Station on the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail. This will give you a real taste of rural life in our massive state, often forgotten when we're busy exploring cities, beaches, vineyards and national parks.
WA street artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers got through 200 litres of paint, 80 rollers and 10 brushes in creating his silo artworks. Over two weeks, he painted for 168 hours - yep, that's an average of 12 hours a day! The result is a visual story of the town, its people and surroundings, told through abstract figures and symbols, across four 35 metre silos.
Hughes-Odgers says the experience was nerve-wracking, but he felt the fear and did it anyway!
More on the Public Silo Trail
The other towns on the Public Silo Trail are Katanning, Pingrup, Newdegate, Ravensthorpe and Albany. You can find out more about the trail at the website: Public Silo Trail.
The site includes an excellent guide to the trail and artworks, including coffee stops, events, places of interest and stories, plus the best routes to take between towns. Go straight to the guide here: Things We Found on the Trail.