Macksville's Wallace Lane to receive a conceptual makeover

Felice with a sneak peak at some of her designs for Wallace Lane
Felice with a sneak peak at some of her designs for Wallace Lane

Move over Melbourne, the street art revolution is making miles in Macksville.

The rather nondescript Wallace Lane (connecting River and Wallace Sts) will soon be a destination in itself after the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) greenlighted an ambitious mural project by an unassuming but incredibly talented local.

“It’s like serendipity – when one door closes, another opens,” Wallace Lane grand artist Felice Ferrer-Burton said, after an Art For Peace exhibition in Iran (one of the US’s black-listed countries) automatically barred her entrance into the United States for her planned New York exhibition.

Felice whole-heartedly rose to the Wallace Lane challenge when approached by the BAC’s “themes” sub-committee to devise a concept for the wall outside the Nambucca River Department Store on Wallace Lane, over a year ago.

But in a flashbulb moment of inspiration while visiting Sydney, Felice’s concept quickly grew to fill the entire laneway.

And what a concept it is!

Two murals (on the Department Store and Remnant Basket) have already been confirmed and another two (on the Newsagent and the NAB building) are awaiting approval by the owners of those buildings.

One Central Park, Sydney, by French botanist Patrick Blanc

One Central Park, Sydney, by French botanist Patrick Blanc

“My aim is to spark people’s curiosity when they see murals from each end of the street,” Felice said.

And connecting the four painted spectacles, should consent be given and logistical creases ironed out, Felice proposes to create a series of Patrick Blanc-esque vertical gardens sprouting edible indigenous plants: an “art and bush tucker trail”.

“I was walking near UTS in Sydney and I saw these vertical gardens, and it felt as if the building was alive – it reminded me of [Friedensreich] Hundertwasser’s architecture, who I love, and it was like ‘ding ding ding’, a lightbulb just switched on in my head,” Felice said.

Felice has necessarily enlisted the help of the whole community for the project which keeps growing in size by the day.

Talented Sydney artist (and Rachel Ward’s son) Joe Neathway-Brown has come on board to fill the Remnant Basket wall with his Mambo-esque illustrations of the town.

Just a fragment of the design for the Remnant Basket wall that Joe Neathway-Brown has devised. (We don't want to give away all the surprises!)

Just a fragment of the design for the Remnant Basket wall that Joe Neathway-Brown has devised. (We don't want to give away all the surprises!)

And Felice has been closely liaising with local Land Council and Michelle Donovan to include appropriate local totems and songline elements into mural designs, and employ two local Indigenous artists: Michael Donovan and Chris Edwards.

She’s also keen to try to bring famously-bearded ABC gardening guru Costa Georgiadis on board to help with the vertical garden elements, and ask the wonderful volunteers from Joan’s Army to help with maintaining the gardens.

“I’m wanting to hold an annual contest for students across the whole Valley to contribute some large canvas artworks to be displayed along the wall outside the NAB carpark,” she said.

“The idea is that these artworks will change every year, so the laneway refreshes itself – then noone can complain that they’ve already seen it all.

“And these students, when they grow up, will likely be the ones protecting the walls from graffiti.”

Felice said the Macksville Show Society had already tentatively volunteered to host the contest as part of the annual Macksville Show – an extension of the services they already provide.

And she’s wanting to ask the new owner of the NAB building to participate as one of the judges.

The community collaboration involved in renewing the laneway will help Macksville feel a renewed sense of ownership of their town.

But the grand plan for the mural on the outside of the Department Store is something that needs to be seen to be believed. 

So as far as words will allow to explain the vision: it will be an epic melange of uniquely Nambuccan elements, done in a style which references transformational artists like M.C. Escher, and makes use of interactive 3-D optical illusions to act as unique ‘selfie spots’.

Mood board: (From top left) Hundertwasser architecture, M.C Escher artwork, French botanist Patrick Blanc's vertical gardens in Dubai and Central Park, Sydney.

Mood board: (From top left) Hundertwasser architecture, M.C Escher artwork, French botanist Patrick Blanc's vertical gardens in Dubai and Central Park, Sydney.

The entire mural will encompass a 294-square-metre space – the biggest canvas Felice has ever attempted.

But she is more than up to the task.

“Ever since I was seven-years-old I wanted to be an artist. I used to draw on the walls and get scolded by my dad,” she said.

Felice was a professional (pre-digital) animator for 15 years, working in a Phillipines-based studio on television projects like Winnie the Pooh, before moving to Australia to work for Walt Disney Animation Australia which, sadly, became defunct in 2006 with the digital revolution. 

After Disney closed, motherhood took hold of her professional identity, which Felice is now trying to rediscover through her love of painting.

“Painting for me is a meditation – it’s like dancing with your artwork,” she said.

“I’ve got this vision, but I’m not relying on anyone to do the leg work for me – I’m willing to contribute my time to make this happen.”

Council will finance the cost of materials and traffic control operations during installment.

And they have offered to hire a local professional house painter to prepare the surfaces for paint.

But what about the other towns in the Valley?

There have been many observations and criticisms from the general public that most of the BAC’s proposed ideas for renewal centre on Macksville.

“Some people say to me ‘why are you only focussing on Macksville?’ and I say this is only the beginning,” Felice said.

“Everything has to start from self – I’m working on my home first. But we want to use this laneway as a model and if I pull this off, then we can go to Nambucca Heads or Bowraville or Valla.

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“In doing this project we’ve come across many hurdles but when we do the next town hopefully it will run a lot more smoothly.”

The Wallace Lane precinct project is scheduled to start imminently.

Felice would love the help of any local artists to aid in conceptualisation and painting.

If you feel you could contribute, please call 0411 742-795 or email ffb2447@gmail.com .