People and Places
The art of community
by Nikki Fisher

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The art of community

Wina Jie

When Bendigo Bank senior manager Fiona Somjee dreamt up the idea of having a mural painted on the external wall of the bank’s Dromana branch, she couldn’t have known the depth of happiness and connection the mural would bring to the town.

Artist Wina Jie was commissioned after Fiona saw her painting a mural outside Dromana pizza restaurant Teresita. Wina is a multi-talented artist with skills in graphic design, fine art, film and television. Earlier this year she set up her ladders and went to work marking out and painting the sizeable mural. Passers-by stopped for a chat, getting to know her and curious about what part of the mural she would paint next.

Dromana Mural

“They want to be part of it and connect,” Wina says. “It’s been a really positive experience. So many connections and stories have spun off from the mural. One man asked me if I could paint his dog in, so I changed one of the dogs I’d already painted to look like his dog. I wanted cultural diversity included so I picked locals I’ve met and included them. I did a lot of research when I was developing the concept. I really wanted to do justice to the details.”

The mural depicts many of the community organisations the bank has supported over the years, including the CFA, sports clubs, the coast guard, and surf lifesaving clubs. “I added in the Dromana drive-in because it’s such an icon. And when I met the fire chief I changed the fire truck to document the last of its kind and added in the fire chief. I’m so grateful for the lifestyle we have here, the flora and fauna and the expanse of the horizon. I wanted to capture all of that.”

The community spirit was tested in mid-August when Wina’s ladders were stolen from the mural site. Walkers Judy and Rhonda, who are fans of Wina’s work, heard what happened and posted it on Facebook. Tradies Sean and Jamie, from SJL Tree and Stump Removal, saw the post and offered to meet Wina at Bunnings in Rosebud and buy her new ladders. The good community vibes continued when CFA volunteer firefighter Neil heard the story and offered his storage shed at the back of his wife’s clothes shop to store the painting equipment safely.

The creation of art in a public space is very different to art created in a private studio. Wina sees her mural as a living artwork going beyond the wall. The mural has evolved beyond the original concept through her meeting the characters of Dromana’s community. It is infused with the heart and soul of those who have watched it emerge. “Public art is also about accessibility,” she says. “People who might not go to a gallery see the art in their daily lives. It’s also about documenting a moment in time.”

Bendigo Bank marketing and communications consultant Amy Campion says: “The original idea behind the mural was to reflect the role the bank plays in the local area, showing the range of community groups the bank supports. We also saw it as a way to create confidence in the community that Bendigo Bank isn’t going anywhere. Rather, we’re wanting to grow and meet new needs, particularly at the southern end of the Peninsula.”

“It (the mural) feels like the start of something,” Wina says. “I’m envisioning street art walking tours like the way Frankston has taken off with their street art tours. It’s a real community story, so I’ve decided to name the mural ‘Celebrating Community Service’.”

To see more photos of the mural and to follow Wina, go to her Instagram page.

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