Graffin the Moo

Graffiti art by Townsville's Max Burns, commissioned by Strand Fitness. IMAGE: Sarah Joy Photography

With Groovin the Moo celebrating 10 years in Townsville this April, there is no doubt that the Festival has become the pinnacle of Townsville’s major music events.

Groovin has earned itself a reputation for bringing killer line-ups to the North and with it, hoardes of young music lovers eager to catch a glimpse of their favourite Aussie and International acts, who mightn’t otherwise make it to our regional centre.

It’s a boon for our local short-shorts merchants and our hoteliers maintain a love/hate relationship with the young guests it attracts, but Groovin the Moo’s reach into Townsville’s community far exceeds one-nights stays and fashion retailers. At the heart of Groovin the Moo’s festival philosophy lies a strong sense of comradery for each of the communities the Festival visits – the organisers work closely with local organisations to create opportunities to support and showcase the talent emerging from our own backyard.

Graffin the Moo is one such initiative.

For the past few years Groovin the Moo has invited The Youth Network NQ to take-over some of the Festival’s fence lines, embellishing them with the work of experienced and emerging local graffiti artists.

Graffitti Art on display at Townsville Groovin the Moo 2016

Rachel Cook, Project Manager of Youth Network NQ said the partnership with Groovin the Moo helped them to fill some gaping holes in the youth engagement market.

“I took over as president in 2004 [of the Youth Network] and through the networking meetings and advocacy work I noticed there was a real gap in the engagement stuff. All of our [community] services are funded to deliver mental health services or employment outcomes or training outcomes, but there’s no-one saying ‘Hey, just come and hang out and be a young person and do some cool shit and learn some cool shit and we’ll link you in with other stuff along the way,” said Rachel.

“We’re often a conduit for young people who want to learn some music or art and that’s primarily what we focus on – art, music and skateboarding.

“The idea [behind our Youth Outreach program] was to reduce illegal graffiti in Townsville by providing an outlet,” Rachel said.

“Townsville got to the point where we had a lot of graffiti crime – it was costing $110,000 a year to clean it up and in the first year of us running our Outreach project, that went down by 25 per cent. I don’t know if that’s directly related to us, but I would like to think we had a play in it somehow because we were providing an outlet and an opportunity for young people to come and have a paint each week.

“Up until last year we had a professional graffiti artist who worked with us to teach the kids and now we have a group of young people who are pretty well-skilled to help teach the younger kids at the skate park.”

Max Burns, 28, is one of those well-skilled artists. Max got involved with The Youth Network NQ’s Outreach program in 2016 after a casual drop-in with a friend, and saw it as a good opportunity to learn a new art form without forking out for expensive spray painting supplies.

Townsville artist Max Burns has honed his craft through The Youth Network NQ

“I wouldn’t be able to practice painting without Outreach,” said Max.

“For some people, they’ll paint illegally if they don’t have legal opportunities and for a lot of the young kids who come along to the Outreach program – and some of them who aren’t necessarily so young, like I was – it’s a good opportunity to get involved in some kind of art without having to go along to an arts class. I think a lot of people who might get involved in spray painting aren’t necessarily people who would go and do a painting class or buy a set of paints and sit at home and do that.

“The Youth Network has taught me things about art – like colour theory, use of space, shadowing and font styles – and about people – like sign language and working with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Max said Outreach provides a social environment for young people to share skills and interact in a positive way.

“Often people do their own thing, but on a Wednesday afternoon, when we’re working on a group piece, someone will do an outline of the letters and other people will come in and get involved with the fill – the main colours – then some other people will do outlines, key lines and little effects. So everybody jumps in and does a little part.”

By giving the Youth Network’s artists a chance to showcase their work to a larger audience, Groovin the Moo hopes to help attract more involvement in and awareness of the Outreach program.

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