indigenous painting in reds

International acclaim and exposure for Townsville’s thriving street art scene

It might seem unlikely to some, but this North Queensland town is becoming a hotspot on the international street art map.

Townsville’s CBD buildings are adorned with eye-catching artwork that has transformed the town into a head-turning public gallery.

The colorful works form the basis of a Griffith University investigation into how public art is used to stimulate urban regeneration and boost social capital.

Dr Matthews says the quality of street art in Townsville is world class.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

Researcher Dr Tony Matthews assessed 26 works of art that are part of a public art walking tour.

“They were on par with anything you would see internationally in terms of quality of art, quality of delivery, quality of materials, choice of location,” he said.

The town was one of three regional Queensland sites chosen for the survey, which involved researchers interviewing key producers of public art, elected officials, city planners and public art specialists.

sugar glider painting on white brick wall
The street art route presents works by internationally renowned artists, including ROA.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

The findings were published in the international journal Cities, which Dr. Matthews says will propel Townsville onto the international stage.

“The major significance of this research is not that it examines public art, but also that it examines regional towns in Australia that are doing very well and growing and should attract attention at the level internationally,” he said.

The process

But it didn’t happen overnight.

When Townsville artist Garth Jankovic arrived in town in 1992, the scene didn’t exist.

a turtle rides a crocodile on a mural
Townsville artist Garth Jankovic says it’s taken years for the scene to develop.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

“I was pretty much the OG [original gangster],” he said.

“The council came on board in the late 90s and began to actively participate and nurture the scene.”

brick wall with painting of a man wearing a white shirt
Jankovic was immortalized in the scene he helped create.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

Working alongside his friend Nicky Prior, Jankovic was the first to combine First Nations scenes and European street styles to create the Girroogul mural and soap tree, part of the street art walking trail .

“If you go to Melbourne, it’s a very European graffiti style,” says Jankovic.

“Townsville is a little more, you know, you have a little more understanding of the demographics [and] if you combine street art and graffiti with traditional stuff, you appeal to a lot more people.”

The 48-year-old was so instrumental in the scene that his portrait features on the art trail, painted by mentee and good friend Lee Harnden.

“I don’t go there often because it blows my mind,” Jankovic said.

Tourism potential

The Griffith University study identified a variety of figurative and abstract styles and bold colors.

Dr Matthews said that given the quality of the work, more could be done to promote the trail as a tourist map.

collection of pictures painted on a blue wall
Townsville City Council said it was looking for opportunities to expand the street arts trail.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

“I know the city has a hiking guide for the public art trail and it’s very popular with tourists and has attracted tourists,” he said.

Townsville Councilman Liam Mooney said it was an ongoing project.

“We are always on the lookout for diverse street artists to work with and for landowners within our CBD and beyond to have a canvas that these artists can also work on,” he said. declared.

blue wallpaper with two colorful turtles
Townsville’s street art trail features more than two dozen works.(ABC North Queensland: Zilla Gordon)

Councilor Mooney welcomed the findings of the Griffith University study.

“It legitimizes what I believe – that we should devote our time, our efforts, our resources to artistic spaces,” he said.

Jankovic said Townsville’s street art scene reflects the character of North Queensland.

“It really makes people who come there think that it’s not just an outback town or a sea town or a tropical town,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a melting pot of all those things put together and I think street art really captures that.”

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