Street art typically conjures images of city blocks with bright, beautiful murals lining the sidewalks. At the very least, the term generally evokes settings with paved roads. Now that street artists have made their mark on urban centers the world over, however, some have begun taking their talents to rural areas. From spray-painted silos in Australia to barn-side murals in the Midwest, the following pieces prove just how exciting street art can be, even outside the city.
1. Silo art in Australia
The industrial grain silos in Brim, Australia, a rural town in the state of Victoria, never quite blended into their surroundings. Before street artist Guido van Helten transformed a handful of the storage units into giant canvases, however, the big ugly towers stood out for all the wrong reasons. In 2016, Helten collaborated with Yarriambiack Shire county to create silo-high murals depicting local farmers. The project was run by Shaun Hossack, the director of the Melbourne-based street art agency Jolly Rudder and the man behind the annual Wall to Wall Festival in Benalla, Victoria, which similarly brings street art to small-town Australia.
A similar project also launched in Western Australia the year before, spearheaded by Perth-based nonprofit FORM. It saw more than a dozen silos across the state beautified. Lovers of unexpected art can admire those works on the Public Silo Trail, which winds from Northam to Albany in Western Australia, or tackle the bigger Australian Silo Art Trail, which weaves together 38 muraled silos and 75 water towers all across the country, Helten’s included.
2. Abandoned buildings in Arctic Norway
Tour Oslo or Bergen today, and it’s hard to believe Norway was once subject to a strict anti-street-art policy. And it’s not just urban centers that have embraced the aesthetic: Even remote, Arctic destinations like Vardø and the Lofoten Islands now bear beautiful street art.
One project from 2008, called “Ghetto Spedalsk” or “Ghetto Leper,” stands out. To spotlight the deterioration plaguing parts of the Lofoten Islands, Norwegian stencil artists Dolk, who’s been called Norway’s Banksy, and PØBEL put a fresh coat of paint on a number of disused buildings there. Most of the images feature people interacting with nature and a nod to modern life. The result is striking, even more so considering the naturally dramatic scenery.
3. Beautified hay bales in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh, a creative collective by the name of Sliabh Beagh Arts is behind a number of public art projects designed to “enrich the lives of the rural communities involved” and “explore the culture in agriculture.” In addition to undertakings like painting with light and weaving beautifully patterned gates from yarn, the arts organization is also responsible for barn murals and graffiti bales, or spray painted silage bales.
In 2016 and again in 2018, Sliabh Beah Arts member Kev Largey painted dozens of fun, bright faces on plastic-wrapped hay bales in County Tyrone and Fermanagh, respectively. The first bales were unveiled facing traffic on the A4 Belfast Road outside of Fivemiletown, and Largey’s cartoonish illustrations were well received by both passing motorists and international admirers who helped photographs of the project go viral online.
4. Michigan’s modern “American Gothic”
Husband and wife artists Steve and Dorota Coy, together a duo known as the Hygienic Dress League, brought the concept of rural street art to Michigan back in 2013. As a commentary on “consumerism and commercialism,” the pair reimagined Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” on a barn wall in Port Austin, depicting the painting’s famous couple in modern dress, gas masks, and shutter shades. While the female figure is dressed similarly to the original subject, the male figure is seen wearing a suit and tie with a gold chain complete with a big, blingy dollar sign.
The duo also unveiled a second mural on another barn in Port Austin, this time referencing the writings of Henry David Thoreau in a making-of video released alongside the works. The pair’s second piece depicts a bird resembling a pigeon alongside the Hygienic Dress League logo.
5. Saype’s rural graffiti
No one does rural murals quite like Guillaume Legros, the French street artist better known as Saype. Rather than roam the countryside in search of bare barn walls to spruce up, Legros has been known to decorate the countryside itself, using biodegradable paint on large swaths of grass. The artist is perhaps best known for his “Beyond Walls” project, a series of illustrations portraying outstretched arms and interlaced hands that have appeared in parks around the world, including green spaces in Berlin and Geneva, on the grassy Champs de Mars lawns leading up to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and on the red-clay ground surrounding the Monument of National Heroes in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The artist’s other projects include “A Human Story,” which graced hillsides around the world with portraits and people-focused illustrations, and “Trash,” which features an image of a crumpled plastic water bottle that takes up nearly 10,800 square feet in Les Bagenelles, France.