With my trip to Tasmania in December last year, I was expecting to see plenty of sweeping landscapes and stunning nature and I did. That’s what Australia’s southern island state is known for. However, I certainly wasn’t expecting to come across a whole lot of street art, especially since I wasn’t staying in any of Tasmania’s cities. But it turns out you don’t need to go exploring down alleyways to find street art in Tassie, you just need to visit the small town of Sheffield.
Located a little inland from the island’s north coast and the city of Devonport, Sheffield is as low-key as it comes. We only stopped through there as it was on our way home from nearby Devil’s Gate Dam and close to where my aunt and uncle live. It sits in a peculiar part of Tasmania where many towns have their own “thing” that sets them apart. In Sheffield’s case, it’s murals. The next town over that we drove through Railton, had a topiary theme, with all sorts of animals and people shapes cut into people’s hedges.
But back to Sheffield. The town has slowly become a popular spot for those driving the north coast, as there’s some cafes and bakeries to eat lunch at, and when you’re done eating you can take in its murals. Through this post you’ll see many of the town’s murals, but while I tried to capture as many as I could, I didn’t get them all.
Before I get to the murals themselves, a little history on Sheffield and its murals. During the 1980s, the rural town of Sheffield was going through some hard times, as was the wider municipality of Kentish. It was at a public meeting in 1985, that the idea of painting murals around town was proposed, after hearing of a similar program’s success in the Canadian town of Chemainus. From this idea, a mural by John Lendis called Stillness and Warmth was commissioned, becoming the first of now over 50 murals in the town of Sheffield. There is even an annual festival Mural Fest held in town, with a mural painting competition.
The murals of Sheffield don’t really have a single particular theme which is nice as it means you get to see all sorts of different artwork around town. One of the more common subjects is the rural life and history of Sheffield and the surrounding region.
Another popular theme in Sheffield is the beauty of local nature and wildlife. While it also popped up in many of the rural landscapes above, Tasmania’s fantastic geography is a ready source of inspiration and captured perfectly, especially in the “sardine tin” mural below. It also wouldn’t be Tasmanian without a nod to its wildlife like the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger below.
With a theme like murals, it only make sense that local businesses would capitalise on this and use them to attract potential customers. The local greengrocer actually had multiple murals like the waterfall above and the eagle below, but my clear favourite was the Blacksmith’s cafe just because of the level of detail and extent to which they went with the idea.
The murals in Sheffield aren’t just used for commercial advertising, but also to honour those that serve the community. There’s a mural honouring the work done by the local Tasmanian police force and a great wide mural commemorating the ANZAC soldiers who have fought and died for Australian and New Zealand. Yes, that is a mural below and not a digitally created image, it’s that good.
One of my favourite creative uses of the murals in town was when they were used to show what might lie inside the building. This was done either with cross-sections fully showing an interior scene, or through fake doorways and windows. I particularly like the little girl painted peering in the also painted window, giving it a real sense of depth. There’s also that last one with the man standing in the doorway, that out of the corner of my eye looked real in person.
Sheffield is located almost 30km due south of the city of Devonport on Tasmania’s north coast. It makes a good stopping point for those travelling between the coast and either Mount Roland or Cradle Mountain National Park. Tasmania is very much a place where you need your mode of transport, however I did manage to find a bus here that linked Devonport with Sheffield and even Cradle Mountain.
Which is your favourite mural of the above? Do you know of any other towns that have lots of great street art? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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