Geelong silo transformed from ‘eyesore’ to giant artwork

An internationally recognised street artist has returned to his home town of Geelong, turning three unused silos from an ‘eyesore’ into an artwork that celebrates the city.
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During the past month Rone, an artist who has worked in in London, New York and Berlin, painted three large stylised images of local faces on the side of the silos – Corrina Eccles, a descendent of the queen of the Wadawurrung and traditional owner, Cor Horsten, who has had a 35-year career at the Geelong Cement Works, and Kelly Cartwright, a dual Paralympic gold medal-winner.

The concrete silos, which have been out of commission since 2001, sit within the former Geelong Cement Works industrial site, next to a large residential development under construction.

Despite not owning the site themselves, the developers next door, ICD Property and Supalai Public Company Limited commissioned and paid for the murals to make the structure, and the area surrounding the development, more attractive.

“We really thought it was a great opportunity to improve the landscape for the community,” ICD Property deputy managing director Matthew Khoo said. “The silos have been, I think, an eyesore in that part of Geelong.”

“It’s not our property, and there was a bit of co-ordination involved to get the landowner on board,” Mr Khoo explained. “Next to where Rone’s silos are is our really premium part of the development – we’re planning that now.”

For Rone, it was an out-of-the-ordinary proposal.

“I don’t do a lot of work directly from developers,” Rone said. “It’s great to see these guys take the initiative. Just the fact that they’re willing to give me the space to paint what I want, not what they want.” Related: Geelong’s industrial hubs rebornRelated: Rise of street art at homeRelated: Street art giving developments an edge

Choosing what faces to include on the silos was difficult, he said. “People are affected by what’s painted there. The idea was to paint people who represent the local community and capture the past, present and future.”

The artwork took four weeks to complete, working 12 to 14-hour days.

Producing a highly visible work for his home town had its challenges because his family and friends saw and commented on what he’d come up with.

“I’ve done things in other countries where I’ve had to leave – if I didn’t like it, I don’t have to see. But this one, I had to put my best foot forward here.”

“What I loved about doing this was doing a project at an international scale at a really local level. It’s the small town I grew up in, it’s cool to bring it home.”

But he is also unsure what the long-term fate of the artwork, and silos, will be. “They shouldn’t really weather away – it’s more a chance they’ll be knocked down first,”Rone said.

The land on which the silos sit is zoned as general residential, but it’s unclear what the future holds. The City of Greater Geelong Council said it had not received any planning permit applications for a residential development on the site.

Mr Khoo was also unsure what the private owner had planned for the old industrial site.

“For the time being, it’s an opportunity for the silos to shine,” he said.