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Did You Know This Was Art

It could be lurking down a laneway, or plastered on a wall. You could be walking past it, over it, under it, sitting on it or talking about it. It might be your Instagrammable moment, or you might not even know it was there. Public art is an interesting (and sometimes divisive) thing, but one thing we can all agree on is that art creates colour, culture and conversation.

Here in Cairns, we have an extraordinary amount of some seriously good art by some of the region’s – and world’s – best artists. Male and female, young and old, indigenous and international, hundreds of artists have all played their part in creating the tapestry of art around our streets, playgrounds, parks, back alleys, walkways and waterways.

Our tip? Take a wander around the streets of Cairns to discover the treasure of aesthetic riches this town has to offer.

Termite mounds at Cairns Airport

Hello, tropical getaway! In the excitement of arriving into Cairns keep an eye out for the magnificent termite mound sculptures, located next to the Domestic Terminal building. Designed by Aboriginal artist Thanakupi and made of cast aluminium with black paint fill, their story is explained on a plaque on site.

Cairns laneways

Hey there, Melbourne street art… hold our beer. The owner of the popular cafe, Caffiend, Oliver James, is a strong proponent of the street art culture and has worked to repurpose a section from Lake St to Grafton St as a passageway of art. The graffiti wall has attracted artists both locally and from around Australia to place their mark. It’s also brought dozens of selfie-taking tourists, boosting business and appreciation for the arts.

Sea Walls: Artists For Oceans

In 2018, twenty local and international artists turned the walls, streets, alleyways and even water towers of Cairns into a colourful canvas as part of Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans, an initiative to raise awareness for the global warming challenges the Great Barrier Reef is facing. Most of the murals are scattered about the Cairns CBD, so you can wander around in a half day and enjoy some wicked examples of Sea Walls Street Art.

Esplanade art

Have you even been to Cairns if you haven’t selfied with the Lagoon Fish? Cairns artist, Brian Robinson, inadvertently created the visual theme of the Cairns Esplanade when he designed five stainless steel woven fish sculptures for the Lagoon in 2003. Now symbolic of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, they have been beamed around the world by millions of visitors. A full stable of artwork by additional artists including the Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Horizon Line, the Terminal Turtles and Telescopus can be found around the Esplanade and Lagoon. Head to the Cairns Regional Council website for a full run down and locations.

Tanks Art Centre

One of the best examples of urban recycling, the Tanks Arts Centre is a contemporary art facility in three converted WWII naval oil storage tanks on the edges of the Cairns Botanic Gardens. With a greater community need for more arts space and associated facilities in the city, the area was redeveloped by Council and is now on the State Heritage Register. This spot is a premier venue for live music for touring international and local artists, youth arts programs, exhibitions and cultural experiences.

Shield Street Benches

Sit on this! Artworks along Shield Street benches include glass mosaics, galvanised steel sculptural forms, gobo light projections and etched granite tiles designed from lino cuts. Philomena Yeatman, Valmai Pollard and Edna Ambrym have used mosaics on the benches to tell a story about bushfires, beetles, the wildflowers of Yarrabah and how the street has been a meeting place for generations of locals and visitors. Craftsman Bernard Singleton’s Storywater Brothers reflects on ancestors, while the stainless steel Yam Vine Bike Racks of Wayne McGinness are based on the yam vines of tropical rainforests.

Crystalbrook Bailey

The cornerstones of our hospitality ethos include culture and connectivity, and here at Crystalbrook Bailey, we believe art is for the people. We want to make art accessible, inclusive and empowering; it’s a powerful tool to break down barriers, provoke constructive thought, encourage empathy and question our own prejudices. Check out the baby grand piano painted by Natasha Davui. Each floor features different artists and Crystalbrook Bailey plans exhibitions, live graffiti sessions, recitals and dance performances.

Where are your favourite spots to see local street art in the tropics?

Top image courtesy of Cairns Arts and Culture Map
Artist: Claire Foxton
Artwork: If We Lose Our Reef, We Lose Ourselves 2018