Empty shops have been abundant on the main streets of a South Australian town, but volunteers with an ambition to use art to attract visitors have brought change.

It has been eight years since a small group of volunteers joined to form the project, and now 13 murals don the walls of the buildings in Kapunda, north of Adelaide.

Kapunda Mural Town Project chair Maxine Douglas said there was a “noticeable” increase in visitors in recent years since the murals started going up, reviving the town.

“I would say when we started [painting murals], we probably had five or six empty shops in the main street, and now I can think of one,” Ms Doughlas said.

The Kapunda mine mural in progress.(Supplied: Kapunda Mural Town)

The murals vary in size, from the size of a shopfront to one that spans 18 metres. 

All were painted or designed by volunteers. 

Two murals have been shortlisted as finalists for the Australian Street Art Awards — the Post Office mural and the Town History mural.

How it all began

Ms Douglas said the idea for the Kapunda Mural Town Project was born after a Rotary art show in 2016.

“It started because the town had a number of empty shops in the main street,” she said.

“The usual story of country towns. We thought, ‘What can we do?’

A mural on the local post office building is one of the two shortlisted for a national art award.(Supplied: Kapunda Mural Town)

“Somebody said, ‘We’ve got a couple of old murals in the town. Maybe we should add on to those and do something about that to attract visitors.'”

Danny Menzel, a Kapunda graphic artist and committee member with the Kapunda Mural Town Project, said the art has revived the town.

“People have been painting murals for a long time … I think part of it, probably with Kapunda, it’s a town which used to be quite large back in the day and has kind of died off a little bit,” Mr Menzel said.

The Kapunda town mural has also been shortlisted in the 2024 Australian Street Art Awards.(Supplied: Kapunda Mural Town)

“There’s a lot of vacant walls, which still hold a lot of history.

“I think it’s just a great place to liven up these old towns and get people coming over for a bit of a look and use local facilities and go to local pubs.”

What inspires the artists

Ms Douglas said a lot of the art was inspired by local things.

“Mostly it’s inspired by the history of the town, which is significant, as well as the local flora and fauna … And the economics of the town through grain and agriculture,” she said.

The murals have become a drawcard for visitors.(Supplied: Kapunda Mural Town)

“It’s educational as well as colourful.”

The group plans on expanding its work to planter boxes and sculptures in the town in the next year.

The Australian Street Art Award winners are announced in Queensland in March.

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