Crafting an artistic legacy for Gresford

The Paterson and Allyn River Valleys may be a lesser-known corner of the Hunter Valley, but local businesses and the community are getting creative to grab their slice of the region’s tourism trade.

Groups of passionate Gresford locals are working to transform buildings and public spaces to entice visitors to stay a little longer in this pretty patch of the Hunter.

It’s hoped through the addition of multiple public art works, from murals to sculptures, a local art trail scene may see more visitors wind their way to Gresford and neighbouring villages. The work is well underway, with two new murals already completed in the town. A farm scene full of animated animals painted by Newcastle mural artist Dan Bianco now graces the side of the town’s butcher shop, while an aerial photograph taken by grand master photographer and local David Oliver features on one wall of the town’s new sporting complex facility.

“We are just so delighted how Dan brought our ideas to life, the animals really welcome you to town and everyone loves how it’s taken a blank space and made it so vibrant,” said Louise Brown, member of the Gresford Mural Group.

For David, it’s been a thrill to create a work that has now been turned into a lasting legacy for Gresford.
“The whole experience was sensational, flying over the valley in the hot air balloon to capture the shot, the early morning light touching the hills – it was just magic,” he said.

“Once we got the image blown up this big, it’s been lovely to watch so many people stop in front of it, looking for their homes or property, spotting the winding river or marvelling at the undulation of our valley. It’s a great talking point.”

Identifying suitable sites and workshopping themes and ideas with the community has been a big part of the process so far. Engagement across the village is important to ensure the community embraces their new vistas, rather than frets about potential eyesores.

A community timeline is next on the agenda and will be painted by local artist Stacey Cocks. Widespread consultation has been undertaken to acknowledge both the area’s Aboriginal heritage and pivotal milestones over the last 200 years.

“We want to celebrate our area’s amazing cultural history, as well as tell the story of the village’s development, of local industries, key community infrastructure so visitors to the area can get a snapshot of what makes us special,” said coordinator Jim Doyle.

Read more in our Spring Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Penny Evans, photography by David Oliver