Toowoomba is an inland city on the Darling Downs about 90 minutes from Brisbane. It’s known as the garden city, is surrounded by some great national parks and is loved for its well-preserved heritage buildings, many from the art deco period. What we didn’t expect to find in this country town was such an impressive collection of street art murals by some highly talented local and international artists.
With over 50 large scale works this growing collection definitely puts the Toowoomba arts community on the map. Wandering off the main roads we also noticed a significant increase in galleries and really interesting cafes and coffee shops as we moved around the city. If you aren’t passing through this way it makes an equally good day trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
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Where to look
There are dozens of buildings adorned with high-quality street art all around Toowoomba, from the main streets to the back lanes. Once we realised what was there and started walking down many of the lanes and parallel roads we came across even more.
We learned that many were created in art festivals in the city during the May of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The event was run by First Coat and made a great annual trip into the regional city. Their website used to host an online map showing the artworks created during the events but the whole site has gone now so I’m trying to locate another source or create our own one that will be posted here soon.
As you come into town you’ll also pass the visitors information centre who have free booklets including a map showing some of the works.
Alternatively just park the car and start to wander around the inner city. It’s quite compact and once it was obvious we were interested several locals stopped to chat and point us in a new direction to see a different group of designs or their own favourites.
A truck driver stopped to chat about ‘back in the day’ working with Aussie band Mental as Anything (If you don’t know who they are you can listen here on Spotify). In addition to significant success for a down-under band at the time, the group were artistically talented with the paintbrush having met at art school and made their own contribution to the less structured street art scene in Australia back in the ’70s and ’80s.
Toowoomba Street Art Gallery
Viewed from the street or car park almost opposite the Empire Theatre at 49 Neil Street this work by Melbourne based artist, Adnate, was my pick of the day. I’ve researched a bit more since we’ve been home and the living eyes are a feature of his work which is prominently featured around Australia.
A few of those other sites have made their way onto my ‘must-do’ list when we’re in the various cities and towns. His works capture an incredibly realistic portrait with spray paint.
It’s would be impossible to pass through one of the main streets in Toowoomba without noticing the scale of this mural on the intersection of Ruthven and Union Steet. Fintan grew up in Queensland and has a very impressive collection of public arts and exhibitions all around the world.
Damien Kamholtz is another Queensland based artist with this interpretation of the three wise monkeys in Bank Lane.
This intriguing capture of movement in club lane is representative of Brissie illustrator, Elana Mullally’s, work which is often quirky and dreamy.
Oh crickey! This colourful rendition of Steve Urwin the crocodile hunter by US artist Madsteez is a bit more of a walk out of town at 6 Neil Street. A little more awkward to photograph too as you can’t get into the empty lot next to it but there is no way you are going to not notice this one as you pass by.
Mark is a designer and artist based in California, commercially he’s worked for big brands including Nike, Red Bull and Honda, he’s had international showings in Tokyo and New York and a legacy of street art around the world generally characterised by this purple and warm colour palette.
Alice is a Toowoomba based artist, the first three works shown below were created during the 2014 festival and I loved their dark, muted but fun aesthetic. They flow right along the length of the building in Lamb Lane off Margaret Street. The space was too narrow for the lens I was carrying to pick it up in one strip but they stand alone well as individual pieces too.
The forth mural is in Keefe Street and was added during the 2015 festival.
The graphic style of Sydney based artist Alex Lehours includes gorgeous pops of colour and works perfectly with this interesting shaped wall in Duggan Street.
Cinzah is well known in the New Zealand street art scene so it was great to see one of her works in the Toowoomba collection. I love love love this giant snake in Lamb lane. It was a more awkward space to work with and what she’s achieved is gorgeous on this warm brick wall. It helps that she’s in my favourite colour palette like the inside of a paua shell.
Meks and Reals
This cute and colourful owl on Club Lane was created as a collab. A winner for me with the colour combination too and being an owl!
Pushing the boundaries in monochrome and a detailed sketch feel is this work by Noke. Bronte Naylor is a female street artist from Paris.
To see another piece in her gorgeous style you used to be able to treat yourself to a delicious lunch at Firefly Cafe in Russell Street but I see the premises are now up for lease again. Fingers crossed it can be reinvented as an equally good art and foodie haven as it would be a shame to lose this one for good.
Brightening up an undercover space in Mark Lane with hot pink and a bit of magic.
Looking foxy in Bank Lane. Fabulous contrast with light and bright.
Toowoomba Street Art
If you love urban art then Toowoomba is definitely worth a visit. The art works are located all around the city with the majority concentrated in the central area. They appeal to a wide variety of tastes and explore a scale that can’t be achieved in many other forms.
South East Queensland has a limited street art scene. Brisbane, the major city, had a very tight policy for approval of authorised works for many years and a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorised designs with many having been painted out in the past few years. While the collection in the capital is growing now Toowoomba is clearly the stand out local spot if you love your street art.
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Where do you stand on the street art debate? Do you love the creativity and life it brings to the city or do you feel sad to see the shabby chic of the original materials being painted over? Do you see a distinction between tagging and street art? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.