Galleries & public art in the outback

By Rochelle Vaisanen

Famous modernist artist, Marc Chagall, once said, “Great art picks up where nature ends,” and Outback Queensland proves the point with both great art and natural beauty.

Known as the place to see natural wonders and breathtaking sunsets, Outback Queensland also offers a cultural experience in the form of art galleries, murals, sculptures.

Feed your culture vulture with this list of the outback’s best galleries and public art trails.

1. Grassland Art Gallery, Tambo

No trip to Tambo is complete without a visit to the Grassland Art Gallery.

From the historical and cultural significance of the building, to the mixture of locally produced and curated displays, Grassland Art Gallery offers a slice of (air-conditioned) art heaven.

If you want to get a feel for the gallery space before you set your GPS to postcode 4478, jump on Google for a 360-degree virtual tour.

Don’t forget to allow time for a browse through the gift shop to pick up a souvenir of your outback holiday.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:45pm

2. Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail, Aramac

#OutbackQueensland photo by @sunkissedndusty

For a lakeside journey served with an artistic impression of outback life, put Lake Dunn on your red dirt itinerary.

Take the gravel road 100 kilometres north-east of Aramac and keep your eyes peeled for the 35 artworks dotted along the way.

From scraps to sculpture, local artist Milynda Rogers has created pieces that reflect the people and animals of the outback, like brolgas, emus and a life-sized cutting horse cowgirl.

3. Sculpture Trail, Blackall

#OutbackQueensland photo by @lylewalker

While Grassland Art Gallery may be an air-conditioned haven for travellers during summer, you’ll need to venture outdoors to experience the Sculpture Trail in nearby Blackall.

Tick off all nine sculptures along the trail, from ‘Eagle in its Nest’ made from recycled railway bridge material, to ‘Lifespan’ created from recycled bore casing.

Top tip: Leave ‘Roly Poly’ to last – it provides the backdrop for an epic Instaworthy sunset picture.

4. Mulga Lands Gallery, Charleville

Charleville’s Mulga Lands Gallery is not only the newest art gallery to hit the red dirt but also Australia.

Opening in 2018, to coincide with the town’s 150 year celebrations, the gallery opened with the exhibition Through My Eyes – A Murweh Story, showcasing 47 images from nine local photographers.

Its bright, contemporary space welcomes local artists to showcase their work, as well as attracting touring exhibitions.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm; Saturday 9am to 12 noon

5. Outback Regional Gallery, Winton

There’s more to the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton than a museum dedicated to the iconic song by Banjo Patterson; it’s home to the Outback Regional Gallery.

The gallery supports local artists, displaying the first prize-winners from the Waltzing Matilda Art Show since 1996, as well as holding exhibits from around the country.

Time your visit to see the winners of the John Villiers Art Prize winners, an annual art competition open to artists from across Australia.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm; Weekends 9am to 3pm

6. Alpha Murals and Jane-Neville-Rolfe Art Gallery, Alpha

Head to Alpha, a small rural town halfway between Emerald and Barcaldine along the Capricorn Highway for a trifecta of art in the form of murals, sculptures and a gallery.

While Alpha might be low in population numbers (currently less than 400) it’s high in artwork, with 23 murals painted throughout the town. Wander the streets to find a series of towering ‘Fossilised Forest of Alpha’ sculptures on Shakespeare Street, and the Jane-Neville-Rolfe Art Gallery.

7. Quilpie Visitor Information Centre, Museum and Gallery

When a gallery offers drinks and hors d’oeuvres with an exhibition opening, you’re onto a good thing. To get your hands on them, simply time your visit to Quilpie Shire’s Gallery for one of their exhibition openings.

With the gallery showing new collections every six weeks from local and interstate artists, you won’t have to wait long to enjoy the opening fanfare.

Don’t think artwork is defined to within the walls of the gallery, either. Head along Brolga Street to see life-size sculptures of cattle and sheep, a drover on horseback and brolgas.

Swing by the park adjoining the Visitor Information Centre for the mural depicting Quilpie’s historical past and head to the Quilpie Library for their “Ancient River” installation – a mix of beaten copper and mosaics illustrating the local landscape.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm; Weekends 9am to midday

8. Banana Shire Regional Art Gallery, Biloela

Biloela may be best known as a place to catch a fish from the Callide Dam, but head indoors to the Banana Shire Regional Art Gallery to catch a glimpse of a touring exhibition and artwork from the Shire’s Art Collection.

With exhibitions changing every six-to-eight weeks, and regular workshops for artists, families and visitors to unleash their artistic flair, jump on their website or Facebook page when planning your outback itinerary.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4pm; Third Saturday every month 10am to midday

9. Water tank mural, Cloncurry

London might have Banksy, but Outback Queensland has Joel Fergie (aka ‘The Zookeeper’).

Armed with spray paint and a blank canvas in the form of a disused water tank, Joel created a mural that pays homage to Cloncurry, featuring a large Mitakoodi Tribe dreaming bird and two local children holding a paper plane with the Royal Flight Doctor Service logo, as a nod to the history of the service being founded in the region.

Side note – if you’re heading to the outback via Thallon (Balonne Shire), start your outback art tour early and stop by the three painted silos, also part of The Zookeeper’s collection.

10. The Dreamtime Serpent, Betoota

If you’re driving between Birdsville and Windorah, take a detour to Betoota – a small ghost town in the Diamantina Shire off the Birdsville Development Road.

Population:0  Public Art: 1

Carved into the side of a hill is ‘The Dreamtime Serpent’, that tells the story of a serpent carving a pathway to connect the rivers of Channel Country, bringing the dreamtime stories of the local indigenous community to life.

Looking for more public art in Channel Country? The Dreamtime Serpents is one of three public art installments in the Diamantina Shire as part of the ‘Sand, Dusk and Gibbers’ project – you’ll find the other two in Birdsville and Bedourie.

11. Arno’s Wall, Winton

Arno’s Wall in Winton is proof that beauty (and art) is in the eye of the beholder.

The 70-metre concrete wall made out of recycled materials, from car wheel hubs and engines to typewriters, has been a work-in-progress for over 30 years.

This is one piece of art that continues to grow.

What’s your favourite art gallery or public art to see in Outback Queensland?