The Benalla Wall to Wall Festival has run this weekend and I’ve headed north for a 24 hour snapshot of the event. I’m really happy I made the trip and I got to see some amazing work in progress from seriously inspirational artists. Scroll below for a series of photos from 2pm Saturday to 2pm Sunday. Not a complete picture of the weekend, as it started Friday night, wrapping up Sunday night, but I hope it shows the progress of some of the pieces.
That said, I walked about 20kms with my gear on Saturday, squeezed a good feed in at the North Eastern Hotel. This morning was the absolute highlight, where I got a shuttle bus from the main town to the Winton Wetlands to see Guido Van Helten do a little Q&A about his approach and to see his work in progress. If you’re not familiar with Guido Van Helten, I highly recommend you check out his recent project in Brim (via ABC).
Guido Van Helten’s Q&A
What really struck me was the passion from both Guido and the people of Benalla. I suspect Guido isn’t really a big fan of the spotlight or talking to crowds, but his reserved appearance really took a backseat once you could hear how much he loves art, community and trying to give art to a space for people to share. He humbly spoke of his understanding that he’s an influential role mode to younger people, which I suspect he takes seriously from his own youthful adventures in the (illegal) street-art scene. He’s proud that he puts his real name to his pieces, these days. But the real memorable moment came from someone in the crowd. There was a general feeling that the people of Benalla ‘just lived in a bland town’, with people remarking there’s never anything on, not much to do, and there’s not really any energy. One lady, in the Q&A with Guido, made a pretty direct statement, along the lines “Do you know what you’re doing for this town? Up the road on my street is a beautiful red-bellied black snake and sometimes, I just look at it and it makes me emotional. I just want to say thank you”, to which a number of people said ‘hear, hear’ and then there was an emotional applause.
I didn’t really expect that. For all the wonderful art, it was the pride in the work that really stood out, from both the artists and the locals. There was a real appreciation of what the Juddy Roller team have pulled together, and the thing I love is how the (stereotypically conservative) locals are embracing art of a different generation. It’s pretty amazing.
As for Guido’s piece, it’s a portrait of a local CFA firefighter, which will form part of a 3 person portrait on the cylinder of an old water tank.