Underground Art is a term used for art that operates outside of conventional norms including street art. Recently though, I stumbled upon a literal use of the term in the mid north town of Crystal Brook in South Australia.
A subway going beneath the rail line caught my attention and I wondered if there might be any art in the tunnel so I went for a look. I was beyond surprised when I found that the entire length and both sides of the tunnel were a gallery of art and local information.
Named ‘Below The Surface’ this project began from a gathering organised by the Crystal Brook Community Association in 2016. They were aiming to rejuvenate the main street of the town and the idea of painting a mural in the subway was discussed.
All of the attendees at that gathering were women, so it was decided to acknowledge the historical contribution of women to their communities from indigenous representation through to the present day. Well done ladies!
So with the assistance of the local history group, students from the primary school, local artists, volunteers and financial sponsors, this project became a reality. Here are some of the artworks, amazing women and their stories to find below the surface.
An indigenous artwork represents women from different family groups meeting in a central place and teaching respect for others, the country and culture. It’s a gathering of women, mothers and babies where young mothers learn from older women.
Jessie Naomi Klopper was a nurse at a small private hospital in Crystal Brook and after marrying a local man in 1919, she and her husband set up a small hospital in their home. In 1925 the District Hospital was opened and she worked as a nurse and midwife there. Only five years later Jessie died while giving birth to her sixth child, leaving her husband to raise five girls.
Mary Ann and Georgiana Priaulx were sisters who began a private school in Crystal Brook and over a few years, taught many students from the region until the public school was built in 1877. Mary Ann continued teaching including dressmaking and millinery into the curriculum.
Ellen May Forgan arrived with her family from England in 1876 and the family settled in Crystal Brook, where she became a governess and taught the worker’s children at the head station Crystal Brook Run. She married a local man and they had 12 children. Most of the 7 boys worked at the local foundry which was established by the Forgan family.
In many rural areas, the Country Women’s Association has been an association where women have been able to build friendships and share skills with others in their communities as well as representing issues that impact rural and regional populations. Hannah Amelia Robinson who was the foundation president of the Crystal Brook CWA when it began in 1937.
The artworks are a wonderful way to pay tribute to local community members and all the paintings are linked along the length of the tunnel with a farm fence painted on the walls with native birds and animals also part of the scenery.
There is signage that names all the participants involved in the project and a terrific quote from Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, which says it all.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.