The Thallon silo art at sunrise, named The Watering Hole. PHOTO: Gary Petrie
The Thallon silo art at sunrise, named The Watering Hole. PHOTO: Gary Petrie

The impact giant silo art could have on Forest Hill economy

Painted silos in the quaint town of Forest Hill would deliver an economic boom and increase in tourist numbers, according to a Thallon resident.

The statement comes from Thallon Progress Association secretary Leanne Brosnan, who was instrumental in having the small southwest Queensland town’s silos painted in 2017.

Not only does Ms Brosnan claim the silo art had a positive financial impact on the town t, but it’s also saved the small Balonne Shire town from dying.

In the years since the enormous artworks were revealed, there was no harvest, no rain, and 2019 was the driest year on record.

Thallon has a population of 257 people, and it has one business.

In 2012, the town almost lost its post office, and in turn, it’s postcode – so it was moved into the pub.

The Thallon Pub is also the post office and general store, and without a surge in tourism, Ms Brosnan said the store would have closed.

“Without the silos to bring visitors to the community and keep the local business going, I think we would have almost lost that local business,” she said.

“When we painted the silos, we didn’t know it wasn’t going to rain very much for the next three years – the silos were our saviour.”

Thallon’s free camping ground, which prior to the silo artwork had about one or two caravans a night, swelled to 30-40 caravanners.

And following a segment on the silos by ABC Back Roads, the tourists continue to visit the small town.

“It would just change our landscape”: LVRC Mayor

Lockyer Valley Regional Council mayor Tanya Milligan. PHOTO: Ali Kuchel
Lockyer Valley Regional Council mayor Tanya Milligan. PHOTO: Ali Kuchel

As far as funding goes, Lockyer Valley Regional Council mayor Tanya Milligan says now is the time to explore all options for the silo art project.

“Council is currently looking at what our budget may look like, so it’s an opportunity to put that up with all our other priorities,” Cr Milligan said.

“We need to continue having conversations with ARTC. I think, for them, there is a capacity and social conscious to give back to the community – you can’t just take, take take.”

With council officers already invested in developing a community consultation program, Cr Milligan said council was invested in getting the first lick of paint on the Forest Hill silos.

Cr Milligan called the project a domino effect – build it and they will come.

“I see the opportunity to be part of the silo trail, which is wonderful for Forest Hill, but I also think regionally, and I think it would be wonderful for the Lockyer Valley,” she said.

“It’s a perfect day trip and it opens up opportunities for businesses and industry.”

Cr Milligan had no thoughts on designs, saying the community needed to have input as they would have to live with the final result.

“You want the Forest Hill community to live it, breathe it and own it,” she said.

“Even just driving there, you get not far passed the uni and you can already see them. I continually look out and imagine what it would look like.

“It would just change our landscape.”

Increase in caravan, 4x4 sales boosting outback, regional tourism

Pom (Gary Petrie), another mural painted in Thallon. PHOTO: Lila Brosnan
Pom (Gary Petrie), another mural painted in Thallon. PHOTO: Lila Brosnan

Southern Queensland Country Tourism senior marketing executive Ilka Brookes echoed the Thallon community, and said silo art was great for getting people off the highway to explore the town.

“It gives travellers a good reason to go to a town or area they may have never gone to otherwise,” she said.

“Silo art has been terrific for these towns. Anecdotally, the visitation to these towns has grown due to the silo art and it’s proving to be a really popular reason to travel.

Ms Brookes said Yelabron just last week had 30 people from the Sunshine Coast stay for five nights.

“They came just for the silo art,” she said.

Ms Brookes said a significant rise, 30 per cent in caravan sales, and 19 per cent for 4x4 vehicles, were creating a huge market for backyard travel.

The silo art gives people a reason to get out off the beaten track and see these little towns that they otherwise wouldn’t have travelled to,” she said.

Thallon silo artwork also helped the community moral

The Brisbane-based artists who painted the Thallon silos, in front of another Thallon mural. PHOTO: Gary Petrie
The Brisbane-based artists who painted the Thallon silos, in front of another Thallon mural. PHOTO: Gary Petrie

Not only has the project been beneficial for the Thallon economy and tourism, but it’s also helped the community.

Ms Brosnan said visiting tourists saw attractions in town that locals took for granted, and it helped the community see Thallon in a “whole new light”.

“It gave the locals a different perspective from constantly looking and talking about the drought,” she said.

“It wasn’t just the economic benefit for the local business, but also the social benefit for the whole community.”

Ms Brosnan said the entire cost of the silo art project totalled $90,000, and said it was vital to have a viewing platform with access organised prior to artwork starting.

“you get huge interest while they are being painted,” she said.

She praised the two Brisbane-based artists who took on the project and have since returned to Thallon to paint numerous murals on the town’s water tank, bridge and school.

She said it took about two years working with the artists to develop a concept that was agreed on by the community and the artists.

“Not only has it attracted visitors, but it’s given the community a sense of place and pride because it’s their design,” she said.

“The artists have to also feel fulfilled, but they’re the experts and can see what it looks like. I’m so pleased we took that time and they were good enough to listen to us and we listened to them.”

Originally published as The impact giant silo art could have on Forest Hill economy