New Wallace Lane murals in Macksville a whole of community effort

The turtle was projected onto the wall and painted in by six different artists.
The turtle was projected onto the wall and painted in by six different artists.

Once a nondescript, liminal space, Wallace Lane is quickly becoming a trendy destination for Macksville.

Murals at either end of the laneway propel you along the street and your mind is fed a buffet of visual tapas as you discover unexpected creative elements dotted strategically along the thoroughfare.

Felice Ferrer-Burton, the principal artist and conceptualist behind the Wallace Lane mural project, is in her element right now – she said she’d be there painting 24/7 if she could.

But she’s quick to add that none of this would be possible without the support and contributions of the community at large.

“When I first started the project I had no concept of just how big a job 294 square metres of wall would be to paint,” she said.

“But I quickly realised as I started painting.

“What amazes me is how many people in the community have come on board to help. One lady even stopped and offered to wash my brushes for me.

And every encouraging thing that gets said to us boosts our energy when we’re tired and inspires us to keep going. I’m very thankful for that.

She said Macksville Rotary had been invaluable as project managers, and the donation of the scissor lift by Rob McWilliams gave her cause to exhale; previously the financial pressures and time constraints of hiring a scissor lift to do the job were creating a stressful environment that was not conducive to doing her best work.

“Now I can breathe and study and do my best,” she said.

“I’ve got a standard – I like to be meticulous. At the end of the day I’d like to be able to sleep knowing I’ve done my best work.”

But she also knows her limitations: “I can’t draw straight lines,” she grinned.

Enter onto the scene Prickle Patch Sign’s John Elliott who helped to plot out and paint the underlying swathes of yellow and blue behind the designs, including the spiral, which Felice says, in hindsight, would have almost defeated her.

“John took half a day to do something that would have taken me weeks,” she said.

He’s also taking on the job of recreating the Nambucca Co-op sign.

If, in your travels, you spy an echidna or two, you can thank Lee Callingham, who’s also volunteered her services for an interactive painting on a wall panel opposite.

Jeff Newcombe has helped resolve the artistic challenges of painting a stained-glass effect, and is helping out with detail work elsewhere.

While Angie Jones has been working on the pandanus and Australian native grass tree elements.

Elizabeth Kent and Sylvia Welsh are having a whale of a time painting up the large aquatic mammal.

And a party of six were responsible for painting everyone’s favourite turtle into being.

“That evening was particularly memorable for me because I got to work side-by-side with my two sons,” Felice said.

While the original idea of vertical gardens connecting the four murals at each corner was not approved for various logistical reasons, the concept plan has now evolved to include even more exciting artistic contributions from participating artists.

Gumbaynggirr street artist YOWA has already added her considerable talent to the mix, creating two bold pieces towards the centre of the laneway.

While Chris Edwards, who is currently installing artworks at the V-Wall, is also contributing his skills to another section of the laneway.

The Hughes family have approved a portrait of Phillip to be painted onto the wall of the newsagency, and a giant image of rowers in a surf-boat will adorn another blank space.

And there will be horses, of course.

“But I don’t want every bit of wall to be covered,” Felice said.

“I want people to enjoy the amazing Joe Neathway-Brown piece, then have some breathing space, before encountering the next artwork.

“It’s like when you’re eating – you don’t want to shovel everything in at once. You need separate courses to savour the flavours.”

When asked – tentatively – how long the project might be expected to take, Felice grinned and said “how long is a piece of string?”

Perhaps that’s for the best, after all they do say the fun is all in the journey.