Wonder walls in Benalla

By Simon Ruppert

The Wall to Wall weekend once again drew massive numbers of tourists to Benalla and organisers are hailing it the best yet.

And it was not just the town’s visitors making the most of the event with the variety of art and Wall to Wall hub providing entertainment to people throughout.

In its fifth year, Wall to Wall has evolved from a small town street art festival to being an internationally recognised event that has put Benalla firmly on the map.

Wall to Wall committee vice-chair Shannon Tharratt said from local to international artists, national and international tourists, and everyone from Benalla, she had only heard positive feedback.

‘‘I think it was a flying success this year, the best one to date,’’ Ms Tharratt said.

‘‘It was smooth sailing from the committee’s perspective, a fantastic turnout, excellent weather with great numbers passing through the hub space and viewing the art.

‘‘I have just said goodbye to a handful of artists today who were heading home and were excited with the prospect of coming back next year.

‘‘And we’ve still got a couple of artists finishing up work and taking time to explore the town before heading home.’’

This year the committee worked to increase the footprint of the festival with several murals on the edge of town, on silos in nearby towns and at Winton Wetlands, to name a few.

They also looked to incorporate Benalla West with the Community Wall on the Midland Hwy welcoming people to town.

They also worked with DELWP and Benalla P-12 College to provide a wall where students could participate.

‘‘The school wall was really exciting as getting the kids involved was something we wanted to do last year,’’ Ms Tharratt said.

‘‘Unfortunately we left it too late in 2018, but getting this one done this year was a great opener to start a relationship with P-12.

‘‘And maybe we can look into getting more schools and local youths involved with the event next year.’’

The Wall to Wall hub, on the Lake Benalla foreshore this year, was the centre of the event.

It included the FReeZA stage, which is a Benalla Rural City Run initiative to provide young people aged 12 to 25 access to live gigs and other cultural, recreational and artistic events that are drug, alcohol and smoke-free in supervised and safe venues.

There were also live DJs playing music, guided art tours, virtual reality street art tours, yoga classes and a wide range of food and drink on offer.

‘‘The hub was great, two days filled with great music, fantastic food, yoga classes, local breweries and kids activities,’’ Ms Tharratt said.

‘‘The FReezA stage was a lovely addition as it covered a different genre of music that wasn’t on the main stage this year.

‘‘The guided tours with Zach Blake were a big success.

‘‘He ran seven tours during the weekend, which included one evening tour with all the murals lit up, and had really good feedback.’’

Ms Tharratt also commented that the mix of local, national and international artists provided a great range of art to add to the already popular street-art pieces around Benalla.

‘‘A number of international artists returned to the festival and some were visiting Benalla for their first time,’’ Ms Tharratt said.

‘‘Insane 51 is one of the new international artists, he was visiting Benalla for the first time.

‘‘He flew in the day before the festival began to create a mind-boggling 3D art piece.

‘‘He was excited at the prospect of seeing a live kangaroo and to wanted to do some sightseeing before heading home to Greece.’’

There is still plenty of Wall to Wall merchandise available, the proceeds of which will go towards next year’s festival. You can find them at One Wild Apple Cafe in the laneway next to Target Benalla.