Murals back in a big way: Week-long celebration in the street art capital of regional Australia
The dates are locked in, artists shortlisted, and events are being planned for the 2024 Benalla Street Art Festival.
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The week-long extravaganza will run from March 21 until March 28, culminating the day before Good Friday.
Benalla Rural City Council welcomed Festival Director Eddie Zammit and members of the organising committee to the Lakeside Community Centre on Thursday, November 30, to share plans with the community.
Mr Zammit said he had worked with more than 400 artists, including being involved with Benalla’s 2018 and 2019 Wall to Wall Festivals.
“I love anything to do with artists,” Mr Zammit said.
“I’ve done my share of walls and murals and love exhibitions.”
When quizzed about how many visitors he expected to attend the festival in Benalla, Mr Zammit didn’t give a number but pointed to a festival he curated in New Zealand in 2015, which drew visitation numbers in excess of 180,000 people.
“I love where street art has taken Benalla, and I can’t wait for the festival,” he said.
“I really want to cement Benalla as the regional street art capital of Australia.
“In the five years that Benalla hasn’t had a street art festival, a lot of other festivals have come about.
“Brisbane is one, Darwin is another. And Benalla is right up there with the best.
“Darwin’s come through, and they keep producing wall after wall.
“But I think, for me, Benalla is still the number one regional street art destination.
“I want to really convey that in the branding.
“I was involved in Wall to Wall in terms of the art direction. I previously worked with Juddy Roller and rolled out the 2018 and 2019 branding.
“One thing I looked back at recently is how can I improve that.
“Benalla is a regional town. I want people to get in their car, catch a train or get on a bus and come to regional Victoria.
“It’s a great two or three-day or one-week destination. I want people to come out, stay here and explore all of the different streets.”
Mr Zammit said one of the facets of the Benalla Street Art Festival 2024 was that artists would be encouraged to make their artworks bigger in scale.
“I’m booking different walls at the moment, and I know the scale of artworks has changed over the last five years.”
Mr Zammit said another thing people might have noticed was some of the artworks had faded over the years.
“The reason for that is the heat is so strong here, and it fades spray paint.
“So I’m encouraging artists to use brushes because it’s going to last longer.”
Regarding artists for the event, Mr Zammit said the community would see some familiar faces returning.
“The world of street art is very competitive, so I’ve also been looking into artists who have been invited to very recent festivals,” he said.
“I want new, fresh blood coming through.
“I want a range of artists of different ages. I think that’s really important.”
Mr Zammit said the idea to run the event for a week came from artists’ feedback at other festivals.
“They’d often ask me why only three days? So, I really encouraged the committee to put it on for the whole week. And that’s official. We’re locked in.
“For the local businesses, it means there’s going to be traffic for that entire week.
“But the aim is to ultimately have traffic all year-round.
“I’ve got a goal, which obviously comes down to funding, but I’d aim for the following year’s festival to be two weeks.
“If you look at somewhere like Darwin, they go for 19 days. Imagine the money being driven into that city as a result.”
Regarding the number of artworks, there is a budget available for about 14 walls at the moment.
“I’d really love to push that to 22 walls,” Mr Zammit said.
However, that would require additional sponsorship and funding before it could become a reality.
During the festival, businesses are encouraged to take advantage of increased visitation by staying open and hosting activities for fringe events.
Expressions of interest for volunteers, fringe events, and sponsors are being sought, with roles available and registration accessible through the festival’s new website, which is set to be launched in the coming weeks.