World-class street art has brought a new wave of visitors to a tiny coastal town in SA.

Story Gretel Sneath  Photo Robert Lang

You can be the prettiest seaside village on Spencer Gulf, but a sparkling ocean and relaxed vibe still doesn’t guarantee a crowd large enough to keep a remote economy ticking over. Tumby Bay is about 600km from Adelaide on SA’s Eyre Peninsula and, while it’s only a short detour off the Lincoln Highway, most cars make a beeline for the more action-packed Port Lincoln, where bottomless seafood and shark-cage diving beckon. 

Tumby Bay’s 1500-strong population needed their own lure, and a community think tank came up with a canny solution to liven up the place. The six towering grain silos at the gateway to ‘Tumby’ were hardly headturners until Argentinian street artist Martin Ron came along with 400L of paint and a big vision. Inspired by a now-iconic image of jetty jumpers captured by local photographer and OUTBACK contributor Robert Lang, Martin reimagined the joyful summer scene as a giant mural 60m wide and 30m high. Completed in 2018, it was one of the state’s first silo art installations. “The locals loved it, but the visitors loved it, too,” Tumby Bay Progress Association president Dion LeBrun says. “We saw occupancy rates at the caravan park and RV park double during the winter slump.” 

In a bid to maintain the momentum, the association went on a hunt for more blank canvases and found empty walls all around the township that were crying out for some colour. And so, the annual Colour Tumby Festival was born, with Melbourne-based street art network Juddy Roller helping to track down high-profile artists from around the globe. “They fly in for three or four days, and leave us with world-class art – it’s just incredible,” Dion says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #143

Outback Magazine: June/July 2022