photo-icon Danny Howe

An artist, a wall and a creative city

Earlier this year, local artist Dave Court was approached to create a mural, depicting the status of Adelaide as a UNESCO City of Music. We spoke with Dave about his journey in coming up with a concept that would represent such an important element of Adelaide’s creative culture.

The City of Music Mural is located on the west facing wall of 128 Hindley Street, Adelaide.

What were your first thoughts when approached to paint a 1,000 square metre mural symbolising Adelaide as a City of Music?

"It was kind of a very slow, long process in development, but when Steve from Music SA first approached, my response was just an immediate ‘yes’. I’ve been involved with the Adelaide music scene in various non-musical capacities over the last few years through taking photos, making artwork and music mag Yewth, and it was a really exciting opportunity to delve into it with a purpose and with an historical bent."


Tell us about your approach to creating the visual representation.

"In thinking about how I was going to possibly represent something as big and complex as music in Adelaide over time, I started with a process of elimination. I decided it couldn’t be an image of any individual people, musical instruments or buildings - or anything that would be restrictive or exclude people that weren’t directly represented. Any kind of direct representation could never do justice to the breadth of what it needs to be."

"Through taking these things and abstracting them they’re able to refer directly to where they come from, and then also be something larger than that. For example, the big black and green circles at the top of the wall are an abstraction of a music street magazine logo - this can refer to that magazine specifically, that particular issue of the mag - which was in the collection of Peter Tilbrook, or it can be representative of all music street press. Also, being a round black shape, it can look like a vinyl record, or concentric circles could be sound waves emanating from a speaker."

Who did you speak to and what did you learn?

"We interviewed a whole heap of people who have been active at various times over the last 60 years: Motez, Glenn Shorrock, Beccy Cole, Bart Willoughby, Sarah McLeod and a bunch more.

"The thing that came up most consistently is how Adelaide has always had such a disproportionate output of talented people compared to the size of the city.

"The other thing that was really interesting was to get a big zoomed-out picture of the landscape of Adelaide music and creative scenes basically since youth culture began, and to get a rough idea of the ups and downs and different waves of influence and culture that shaped the city."

Was there a recurring theme across your conversations?  

"The common thread, which is a big thing with all creative industries, is about the size and scale of Adelaide. Australia is kind of in the corner globally and Adelaide is perpetually in the shadow of Sydney and Melbourne - but time and again people talked about how this is a positive thing, that people are able to create something unique in this relative isolation and that Adelaide has always punched above its weight in terms of artistic and musical output."

What was the most unexpected learning from your research?

"I think what was the most surprising, and I guess I hadn’t really thought about it because it was before my time, is how much of an impact seemingly simple legislation changes can have on culture and creative scenes. There was a huge suburban live music scene in the '60s which was hit hard when drink driving laws were introduced and is now basically non-existent - and then that same thing happened in the '90s with the introduction of pokies which eradicated live music from the majority of pubs and venues everywhere."

In the wake of this project, what do you now believe it means 'to be a City of Music'?

"I think it means a lot of things - a music scene is a huge, complex interconnected beast and so many things contribute to making it better or worse. Something that came up a lot, and what I think is great about Adelaide as a city of music, is that it is diverse - lots of different people making different kinds of things, and supportive, especially between different genres and styles of music."

The mural celebrates Adelaide being recognised by UNESCO as a City of Music – but what can you tell us about the city culture for visual artists?

"That’s a huge question that could be its own investigative documentary and mural project. I could say so much.

"I think there are a lot of parallels between music and art though, and obviously a lot of overlap. Adelaide visual art culture is awesome and diverse, outputs at a super high standard and everyone is generally super warm and supportive of each other. It’s a great thing to be a part of.

"Adelaide is at the size where it’s large enough that it can support and produce a heap of excellent artists, but still small enough that it’s possible to meet or know a large proportion of artists working in the city, and everyone is a friend of a friend. This allows lots of great potential for connection, collaboration, learning and growing for everyone involved."

The finished product. 1000 sq metres, painted in ten days, using 300 litres of paint. 

Adelaide was designated as a City of Music in 2015 and is Australia’s first and only City of Music. Australia’s UNESCO Creative Cities include Adelaide City of Music, Sydney City of Film, Melbourne City of Literature and Geelong City of Design.