Yarram wasn’t hit directly by the summer bushfires, but a lack of tourists and financial stability in the surrounding towns did affect community business and spirit.
The project, dubbed “Heesco Town”, was the idea of Yarram businessman Eric Greenaway. He’d seen Khosnaran’s artwork on the walls of the Bull Bar & Gallery, belonging to Wayne and Anne Tindall. The trio came up with the idea of commissioning Khosnaran to transform 10 key building walls with murals.
They started with mock designs on local walls, so the community could respond before final work began.
Painting began in early March, with a plan to accomplish the full ‘town’ in four weeks just in time for the annual Tarra Festival in Yarram (now postponed).
Khosnaran started at Paul and Jody’s Ship Inn Motel, which had offered him free accommodation. “I got the help of French artist Gamo during the first week. My good mate Damien Mitchell, an awesome artist visiting from NYC, helped out with some of the walls too.”
Before the travel restrictions and social distancing rules Khosnaran, Gamo and Mitchell would pick a wall each for the day and work separately to save time, then hang out in the evenings over dinner and drinks.
After that, Khosnaran worked solo: he would “wake up, have breakfast, drive out and paint, have lunch, continue painting until I’m tired, or till it gets too dark to paint, pack up and come back to my motel for dinner, sleep.”
The first and biggest mural was a portrait of local man Ralph Vale and his bullocks. “As I was painting him, many locals came to tell me stories about him. It was clear just how well known and loved he was in Yarram.” Another one depicts Bill McKenzie, a long-time truck driver for Murray Goulburn company, who gratefully told Khosnaran that now his great-grandchildren will get to remember him. Another features Kara Healey, the first female national park ranger in Victoria, renowned for her conservation and field work. She collected more than 500 specimens at Tarra Bulga National Park.
Each mural will have a QR code, linking to the website heescotown.com to tell the story behind the artworks and promote local businesses.
Lyn Kerrison, assistant principal of Yarram Secondary College, said it was a shame the six students doing work experience with Khosnaran could only spend a week getting hands-on experience before social distancing laws kicked in.
“The Heesco Town project has made our local history visible, making our town acknowledge not only where we have come from, but where we are going. In short, this project has given us a sense of pride in who we are in rural Gippsland, despite the devastation and disruption wreaked by an extraordinary summer of bushfires and now, more recently, COVID 19,” says Kerrison. “This mural project is an oasis of positivity and creativity in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, and a celebration of community.”
- Tindall, a filmmaker, has documented the process on Facebook.