Honouring veterans one stroke at a time

A SALA festival artist is completing a one-of-a-kind mural at the Port Pirie aerodrome to commemorate World War Two service.

Aug 22, 2023, updated Aug 22, 2023
Sam Brooks (foreground) and Mark Harding will complete the Port Pirie aerodrome  mural by the end of August.

Sam Brooks (foreground) and Mark Harding will complete the Port Pirie aerodrome mural by the end of August.

Sam Brooks, the South Australian artist commissioned to work on the piece to adorn the last remaining WWII Belmont Hangar at the Port Pirie aerodrome, said the unique three-panel design allows him to offer a fuller image of Port Pirie’s military history.

“Normally murals are one large story, but this mural has three big panels, which gives you so much opportunity to get in more details, and I think that really sets it apart from a lot of mural works around Australia,” he said.

The mural will feature wartime maps, training planes, and tell the stories of the pilots and WAAF engineers who were trained through the Empire Air Training Scheme at the aerodrome during WWII.

Port Pirie aerodrome

A draft of what the centre panel of the mural will depict when complete.

The middle panel will be the “hero piece” with a depiction of pilots graduating from the scheme.

Brooks said it was important to him that the mural also paid tribute to the 22 personnel who died during training.

“When you look at the training and what the people went through, it was revolutionary but so dangerous. These were people from farms and workshops, and told ‘hey, you’re going to pilot a plane’ and even though they never made it to war, they still gave their life in trying to do so, which is just as heroic,” he said.

Part of his research for the mural involved chatting with locals, which Brooks said was what made being an artist in smaller communities especially rewarding.

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“In a small community it means so much more to people. They are so invested in the story. People care about the artwork more. People can really take it in and appreciate it,” he said.

“As it gets closer and closer to the date, you start to hear from more people, they have more ideas, and the mural changes as you paint it, as you hear the stories. It is always evolving on the wall.”

Brooks is being assisted by another artist, Mark Harding, who has a background in commercial painting.

He said the painting was literally taking place “as we speak” and should be completed for the final day of SALA on 30 August.

Topics: Port Pirie
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