Broken Hill is a beacon for a wide range of Australia's creative types.
Broken Hill’s iconic national status is defined by the diverse work of some of Australia’s most creative individuals. For generations, they have drawn inspiration from the city’s larger-than-life history – from mining to social advocacy – and its spectacular ancient setting.
Today, the grand dame of the outback continues to be the muse for a passionate community of painters, sculptors, ceramicists, musicians, actors and film-makers.
MORE GALLERIES THAN PUBS
There are more than 20 galleries in Broken Hill; in fact, galleries outnumber pubs. Typical of the city’s colourful character is the art and attitude of the late Kevin ‘Pro’ Hart. You can see Pro’s direct and humorous approach expressed in so much local art. Take time to chat with the artists about their down-to-earth lives and you’ll understand where it comes from.
There is also plenty of art to enjoy around the city streets, from intriguing sculptures in public parks to bold wall murals that depict Broken Hill’s heritage. Art is even set amid the landscape outside the city – the sculptures in the Living Desert Reserve reflect both the diverse culture of the region and an appreciation for the city’s magnificent surroundings.
The culture of Broken Hill is further represented through diverse creative practices that span centuries, ranging from ancient Indigenous storytellers to 19th century architects and famous 20th century artists like Russell Drysdale and Clifton Pugh. Today’s creators love the light and landscape with equal passion, and express themselves via diverse media – from painting and sculpture to basket-weaving and photography.
Aboriginal artists made their mark throughout the region thousands of years ago. At Mutawintji National Park (130km north-east of Broken Hill) this legacy is apparent in the remarkable engravings of animals and animal tracks, as well as painted hand stencils and other motifs –some of the best examples of Aboriginal art in New South Wales.
BRUSHMEN OF THE BUSH
The region’s thriving arts scene owes a lot to the Brushmen of the Bush – Jack Absalom, Pro Hart, Hugh Schulz, John Pickup and Eric Minchin. In 1973 they formed a group based on a shared love of painting the Australian outback and exhibited their artwork together for the next 25 years.
True to the community spirit of the outback, during that time the group raised over one million dollars for charities like the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Even the shortest stroll down Argent Street – the city’s main thoroughfare – and around some of the side streets will give one a strong sense of the contrasting fortunes of the city and its early residents. Federation and Victorian buildings stand grandly beside tin cottages and the curving faces of 1930s Art Deco. More than 350 properties are officially listed as locally significant. Many feature on similar state and national heritage lists.
Broken Hill is particularly known for its heritage hotels. In their heyday these pubs were essential as places of escape from the drudgery of working underground. Today, Broken Hill’s pubs are still the centre of attention – places to wet your whistle, swap stories, play music and dine in style.