Taking Tonny to the streets

By Ivy Jensen

TONGALA is fast becoming the brightest and most artistic town in the region.

All thanks to the Tongala Lions Club and some volunteer artists who are trying to keep the town sustainable.

For the past five months, artists have spent almost every day painting about 30 murals which have been placed around the town, including the old laundry and garage, the bakery, pharmacy and the side of the IGA building.

Organised by the Lions Club, the street art complements the 10 murals around the town painted by artist and club president Murray Ross in 2001 as part of a Centenary of Federation project and 14 murals placed outside the Nestle dairy plant in 2004, all of which tell the history and character of the town.

‘‘Tongala Lions Club wanted to make Tongala a sustainable town so we decided to paint some more murals on the top of the old ones we’ve had for 15 or 20 years to encourage people to come and spend a bit of money in the town but also for the shops to survive,’’ Murray said.

‘‘We have something special here and we need those core shops to stay open.’’

In January, the old grocer shop opposite the RSL in Mangan St was turned into an art studio where Murray and five artists from Echuca, Tongala and Rochester have been busy painting some stunning artworks — everything from a washing line complete with hanging clothes, a man and his dog by the Murray River, an old Holden and war-time murals to a view of Lake Como, animals, angel wings and fairies.

‘‘We’ve got artists from around the region who are all having a go at painting something to make the town look prettier and brighter,’’ Murray said.

‘‘We also created an inclusion mural where everyone had a go at painting something which allows them to get a real sense of ownership of the murals in town.

‘‘We have also included real people in some of the paintings so it gives them a sense of ownership.

‘‘Over the years we’ve never had any graffiti because we think there’s a sense of ownership of the town and the murals which is great.’’

Murray said he hoped the project would bring more people to the town and for Tongala to become part of the art trail.

‘‘We hope people will photograph themselves with the artwork,’’ he said.

Sam McLeod Automotive Repairs owner Sam McLeod said since the Holden mural was painted on the wall of the old garage and its old pumpers were repainted, a lot more visitors had been stopping by.

‘‘The artwork is excellent and so many people have been coming in to photograph it,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been excellent for the town.’’

Echuca artist Jill Conway said she had enjoyed being part of the project.

‘‘It’s been great working with Murray who donates so much time to the community,’’ she said.

‘‘It would be nice if he got more appreciation for what he does.’’

Bendigo Bank provided $10,000 towards the project which went towards the studio rental and paint supplies. All the artists’ time was donated.