An iconic outback town adjacent to the South Australian border with NSW, this remote and fascinating place is a living museum boasting more than 350 properties of significance.
The former mining settlement dates back to the 1880s and is Australia’s first Heritage-Listed city. But Broken Hill’s not all about celebrating its yesteryear, this plucky outback enclave of 18,500 people has lately reinvented itself as a haven of art capitalising on its dramatic natural stage of rich ochre offset by massive skies.
Pro Hart’s is just one of more than 30 galleries and permanent outdoor installations that mark this transformation. As a measure of the city’s transition to a centre of culture in the outback, there’s now more galleries than pubs in town.
And the art scene is thriving. You’ll immediately notice public sculptures, street murals and displays of vibrant colour as soon as you arrive in Broken Hill that has also retained much of its Federation architecture most notably in Argent Street, the main thoroughfare in town.
The combination of the many museums that showcase the town’s prosperous past borne of the valuable silver, zinc and lead that lay below ground – BHP set up shop here in 1885 – contrasting with its more modern, edgier art scene, makes this a trip well worth the effort to get there.
The area’s rich colour and history has inspired not only some of the greats of Australian art like Hart, Eric Minchin, John Pickup, Russell Drysdale, Clifton Pugh, Hugh Schulz, and Jack Absalom (whose gallery attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year) but filmmakers, sculptors, musicians and photographers.
Providing the distinctive backdrop for many Australian classic films like Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Broken Hill and nearby Silverton seem somehow familiar when you experience the region first hand.
But it’s the so-called Brushmen of the Bush who set the course for the artistic reinvigoration of this remote place.
A visit to Pro Hart’s former home and workspace sets the tone for a number of artistic trails that can be followed around the area. The gallery, in Wyman Street, gives an intimate insight into how the internationally acclaimed artist went about creating his unmistakeable works and your first taste of what is to come is the trademark painted Rolls Royce’s occupying pride of place in the garden.
Other don’t-miss galleries and points of artistic interest include:
- Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
- Living Desert Sculptures and Flora and Fauna Sanctuary
- Silver City Mint and Art Centre
- The Homestead Gallery
- Absalom’s Gallery
Getting to Broken Hill is about 13 hours drive from Sydney (5.5 from Adelaide, 9.5 from Melbourne). Regional air operator Rex flies daily from Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne (via Mildura) and NSW TrainLink runs a weekly (Mondays) Xplorer train service from Sydney’s Central Station and its daily service to Dubbo meets with coach connections direct to Broken Hill. Depending on the season, The Indian Pacific has direct services from Adelaide and Sydney at least once per week.
Published under license from Well Travelled