Silo art survey to quantify social and economic value

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The sun rises over Ravensthorpe's silo art.
Camera IconThe sun rises over Ravensthorpe's silo art. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr

Their towering beauty is hard to miss, but a team of researchers is trying to quantify exactly what Australia’s 40-plus pieces of silo art mean to regional communities.

Griffith University has been monitoring the increasingly popular trend of silo art, which has breathed life into once-plain grain silos and turned them into public displays.

Researchers this month launched the first national survey designed to provide independent and public information about the impacts of the silo art movement.

The survey aims to capture the perspectives of people who live among silo art and who visit the art.

There are six painted silo sites in WA, all created through a four-year collaboration between grain handler CBH and Perth-based organisation FORM called the PUBLIC Silo Trail.

The first in the Trail, eight painted silos at Northam, became the first silos painted in Australia — kickstarting a nationwide trend.

Advertised as WA’s biggest art gallery, the PUBLIC Silo Trail also includes large-scale paintings on Western Power’s electrical transformer boxes and four schools in Katanning.

The painted silos include Northam (2015), Ravensthorpe (2016), Merredin (2017), Albany (2018), Newdegate (2018) and Pingrup (2018).

The final silo painting in WA was in Pingrup in 2018, with CBH and FORM deciding to end the project that year.

Researchers Amelia Green and Scott Weaven, of Griffith University’s department of marketing, said silo art was well-known for attracting tourists.

The pair believe the research will shed light on different aspects of silo art’s short and longer-term value.

Their research focuses particularly on the impacts of silo art on social, individual, community and financial wellbeing.

“Regional Australian communities and local government are currently unable to draw upon a body of sound evidence,” Dr Green said.

“Our project will address this issue.

“Every community group, tourism officer and council in Australia will be able to access the findings of this research.”

Dr Green said initial interview research showed that silo art that told “authentic stories about local communities” was the most engaging to visitors.

“While understanding visitor experiences is crucial, we are building a more complete picture,” she said.

“That includes what the particular nature of silo art means for regional communities, and how the art can directly benefit them as well.”

The researchers are calling for anyone that has visited silo art or lives in a town with silo art to complete the survey.

“The more people who participate in the survey, the more informative the data,” Dr Green said.

“Capturing mixed views on silo art will also enable more comprehensive and robust findings.”

The findings of the project are expected to benefit the 44 or more towns silo art in Australia.

It is also aimed at benefiting towns with water tower art and similar public art, towns in surrounding areas, and those campaigning for or considering art projects.

“This evidence is vital to help realise potential benefits for visitors and communities, informing future projects and sustaining interest in existing sites as the Australian silo art movement continues to develop and evolve,” Dr Green said.

The online survey takes about 20 minutes to complete and can be accessed by visiting http://prodsurvey.rcs.griffith.edu.au/prodls200/index.php/889133?lang=en.

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