Busselton’s beautiful new artwork on Opal Lane

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A collaborative mural breathes life into a forgotten laneway

Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Michael Smart caught up with some of the artists and volunteers behind this creative project.

A beautiful new mural on Opal Lane breathes life into central Busselton, creating an exciting new space for community events and gatherings. Local artists and community came together to create the six-panel artwork which depicts the things we love best about Busselton, our pristine beach, historic jetty and diverse wildlife.

Breathing life into Busselton’s CBD

Unless there’s an event, there’s not a lot to attract people into the city. Most tourism accommodation is out of town, and investment has been focussed on the foreshore and creating a vibrant precinct by Busselton Jetty. Here at the Chamber of Commerce we’re trying to entice visitors back to the CBD, to shop, dine and explore.

Lisa Massey and Lisa Skrypichayko from Building Busselton’s Town Team came to us with the incredible idea of revitalising Opal Lane with a giant artwork, and we could see the benefit. The Chamber works with the business community, and we encourage strategies that engage, give back and participate in local events as that’s where your loyal customers are.

If we’re trying to change the economy away from pure tourism, and continue to make small businesses viable, we want to nurture tight knit relationships between local business and community which will help futureproof against larger corporations taking opportunities away from locals. We’re hoping this strategy helps transform places and keep foot traffic coming for businesses.

Doing well by doing good

“This project has been on the cards for a while, to liven up Opal Lane which runs through the heart of the city,” explains Lisa Skrypichayko, a volunteer at Building Busselton. “One day it might become something larger, but we had to start somewhere.”

Initiated by community group Building Busselton, and auspiced by BCCI, the groups secured funds from Regional Arts WA, City of Busselton and RAC Connecting Communities. Most of the funding went to pay the artists for their work, to help artists in the region. We really liked the fact we could use local people who understand Busselton life. We did it on a frugal budget and we’re really pleased with the outcome.

Culture, arts and creativity are pursuits that keep us well, and investing in the arts is immensely nourishing, creating healthy ways for the community to connect. Coming out of a pandemic, this project was almost a mental health example of how to help a community. Even the recent budget has so much talk of STEM and digital connectivity, but there’s a great history of arts in the south west, and I think it can bring a lot of joy to the community.

Artists and Community get involved

“We spent a lot of time finding out what the community love about Busselton, and narrowed down some trending themes around the Jetty, ocean and nature in general,” says Lisa Skrypichayko of the initial creative process.

The Building Busselton team worked with City of Busselton Cultural Development Officer Jacquie Happ to select six artists.

Dunsborough artist Ian Mutch joined Anita Revel, Andrew Frazer, Jordan Rush, Tom Ansell and Sam Allen in translating these natural themes of life by the bay into larger-than-life art, themes he often explores in his illustrations and murals. “I wanted to create the feeling of movement and energy, which is why I always paint birds in flight. You can see the proud pelican in my mural, and the southwest sunset and coastline, seasons and festivals portrayed in an abstract splash of paint and ribbon – the ocean and the bay.”

No stranger to collaboration, Ian Mutch says artists bounced ideas off each other, “it was a virtual collaboration via phone and emails, sharing visuals, then I filled in the pieces from there. I painted onsite with Andrew [Frazer, a friend] and other artists trickled in two or three at a time. It’s fun having a buddy next to you, sharing equipment and colours, problem solving on site. It’s nice to work as a team, there’s a real range of styles and it’s really rewarding seeing the whole piece come together.” Ian and Andrew held a talk about street art mid-way through the project, attracting curious budding artists and art appreciators.

Anita Revel, famous for her Cowara Dreaming ‘wings’ in Cowaramup laughed as she recalled the community painting workshop held on Easter Monday, “12 people had responded, and 70 turned up! It was chaotic in a good way, with frenzied energy. We had invited locals to help paint a piece of the mural, so people had a chance to get involved and feel that sense of ownership. Everyone cut a stencil of a marine animal from old x rays and spray painted it onto the wall. I’d painted the basic underwater scene and with 70 rather than 12 people adding sea creatures it turned out much busier – which is perfect as it’s busy under the jetty!”

She thanks the volunteers from RAC WA who did an excellent job helping run the workshop.

Painting the way forward

We’d love to see something bigger in the future. Depending on funding, there’s certainly appetite in town to see more areas activated in this manner. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, from the local business owners and community alike.

“People kept coming back all week to see their piece on the wall. They all stood in front to take a photo, and of course shared the photo on social media” says Anita Revel, who continued painting for a week following the community workshop. Anita includes her Instagram handle on all her works, and loves being tagged in photos of people posing in front of her interactive wings.

Landlord Grant Mooney allowed us to use his space for a small launch party, and Geocatch thought it would make a great backdrop for a gardening workshop a week after the mural was completed. People went to learn about sustainable container gardening and how to make best use of their soils, and so many passers-by stopped to see what was happening. We’d love to see the space used for more popup events.

Take a selfie, get involved

Anita Revel wants you to visit the mural, share a photo on social media and tag the artists and geotag Busselton to get the word out about our thriving city. “I’m really grateful so many people ventured down the lane to have a conversation about the pieces, and which is their favourite. They all responded differently to the art.”

Artist Instagram handles

Our Instagram handle

Building Busselton is a community-run joint venture by the Busselton Town Team and local business owners to create activity in the Busselton CBD. Check out their Facebook and Instagram to see what’s coming up. They’re always looking for new blood – join a dynamic group of volunteers who want to make Busselton a better place for all.

We’d like to thank major funding partners Regional Arts Fund, RAC WA, City of Busselton plus Building Busselton Town Team for bringing this to life.

Special thanks to Alex Franklin for the images used in this post.

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