Toowoomba’s recently renovated Grand Central shopping centre has now incorporated a community art program in and around the buildings, with the hope of bringing together local artists and strengthening community relationships.

The $500 million redevelopment includes an iconic 60m ‘culture wall’, drawing on artwork from individual artists with culturally rich backgrounds.

Located opposite the entrance to the Myer Carpark, works on the wall feature a series of eight artworks that represent ‘women at work’. The concept of the wall draws on Toowoomba’s pride in the numerous social strands that contribute to the fabric of the contemporary Toowoomba community. Eight culturally diverse women of all ages have created one piece of the artworks each, drawing on their various backgrounds and skills and highlighting the large range of diversity within the community.

Artists involved include:

Rahila Abdul Hadi, whose family comes from Afghanistan. She was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Rahila is 15 and has been in Australia just two years. She draws on her memories of her grandmother making rugs, both in the image and the background which illustrates a traditional Afghani rug.

Mary-Kate Khoo, whose work refers to her early childhood experience of her mother in the now rarest of occupations, the stay-home mother. The background to her work draws on the fine porcelain tea-ware – Country Roses design.

Helen (Fatmata) Sesay, from Sierra Leone. She brought her family to Australia as a refugee of conflict. Her work speaks to her village experience – pounding rice to remove the husks and fetching water. The background reminds us of Sierra Leone’s role in diamond production, set against a traditional fabric design.

Tiffany Shafran, a fine art exponent who retains the nineteenth century tradition of ‘sampling’, a form of stitching. Her portrait is taken from the early twentieth century – a time that saw the emergence of early feminism in the form of the Suffragettes, women who demanded the right to vote.

Elysha Gould Rei, whose work represents a geisha in a sea of waves. Elysha was schooled in Thailand but has close connections with Toowoomba where she spent many years. Her work draws on her Japanese-Australian heritage.

Joanna Kambourian, who is rediscovering her Armenian background. Her first trip to Armenia a few years ago introduced her to the personal impacts of a genocide and sometimes forgotten people.

Her painting shows a dancer in traditional dress against a background of a traditional rug design.

Kim Walmsley, a self taught Indigenous artist, explores her connection to her culture and life’s experiences through her art.

Megan Bartman, who has been painting since she was 15. Her work often depicts the connection between land, people and creatures of the Earth.

Additional art in place at Grand Central includes work by Cherie Buttons, a self-taught artist from Brisbane. Her piece is heavily influenced by Japanese pop culture, bright colours, and the female form.

Eoin O’Connor’s unusual form of urban art features on four concrete pillars at the Dent Street car park entrance, consisting of swirls and swirling that is reminiscent of natural forces like wind and sea, while also reflecting his Celtic cultural inheritance.

A huge three story artwork reflecting the physical and cultural history of Toowoomba was completed by Adelaide artist Vans the Omega, located near the new travellators at the eastern end of the Retail Galleria. 




Banner image: Artist Cherie Buttons