Tuesday 15th March, 2022
Author:   Michael Kenny

Yarram has recently gained attention for something quite different, with an ongoing series of innovative public art and cultural activities, engaging local residents and visitors alike. Renowned artist Heesco was initially contacted to do a small series of murals throughout Yarram during 2020. This idea quickly grew, producing 24 public murals, featuring prominently on local buildings throughout the town. Capturing the attention of both national and international media, Yarram soon earned the unofficial title of ‘Heesco Town’.
Heesco and the Yarram community readily adopted each other. Experiencing murals being worked on and new artwork emerging each day really engaged the local community in the creative process, giving people a sense of excitement and pride as the local built environment was transformed into something magical. The murals now bring visitors from far and wide to share in the visual feast.
With local appetites whetted, the local community started rocking with the 2020 Pitch Invasion, an event that brought live music to the Devon North Recreation Reserve, providing a welcome outdoor break and some fresh air, after a period of extended lockdowns and isolation.
Keeping up the momentum, a Chalk Art Festival followed in 2021, which was perfect for the time, as COVID-19 restrictions had limited public gatherings. Ten artists were recruited for this festival and a series of public artworks quickly captured the attention of the local community. The festival also attracted visits from online followers of the artists who were involved. Alongside this festival, two workshops were held to offer young people some training in the creative process, a valuable opportunity that will inspire local skills and talents long into the future.
The creative mix in Yarram was further developed with an Inside Out Portrait Project, featuring 100 photographs of local residents taken by internationally recognized artist JR. These portraits were exhibited for a month, in a frequently used alley off the main street of Yarram. One of the great outcomes of this exhibition was that it highlighted just how culturally diverse the local Yarram community had become. The Inside Out Portrait Project was much enjoyed and appreciated by all ages.
The success of the Chalk Art Festival led to a repeat in January 2022, along with another Pitch Invasion music festival, helping to established Yarram as a hub of creativity and culture that is increasingly being appreciated by locals and visitors alike.
Beginning with financial and practical support from local business owners and individuals with an interest in promoting a vibrant and creative local culture, the Yarram Business and Tourism Association soon got behind these private contributions and provided key support to help grow local creativity and host public events.
Key media spokesperson and early contributor, Matt Langdon, continues to support ongoing cultural and artistic efforts that have raised the profile and of reputation Yarram as community that is expanding opportunities for people to be creative, involved, connected and actively generating new ideas for the local area.
This steady growth in a range of artistic and cultural events in Yarram ultimately led to the formation of the Gumboot Collective, a group that has since taken on a leading role in cultural and creative events. Members now include secondary school students, local businesspeople, young parents and new residents to the Yarram area.
The Gumboot Collective was launched over a weekend in June 2021. A series of life drawing classes, steampunk hat workshops and introductions to chalk art were on offer at various locations around town. A wooden spoon carving demonstration was a particular favorite with locals and visitors alike, inspiring a monthly gathering that now attracts enthusiasts of all ages.
With an annual Chalk Art Festival and the Pitch Invasion music festival firmly on the calendar, and the Gumboot Collective working on plenty of other creative ideas, the Yarram community is establishing itself as a fantastic and inspiring place to live, be creative, involved and engaged.