In line with Canberra’s 110th birthday celebrations, this month Canberra Centre also celebrates 60 years of Monaro Mall.
To commemorate the milestone, a community mural has been erected across the hoarding on the ground level opposite Superdry, driven by local artists Geoff Filmer and 2022 NAIDOC artist of the year, Leah Brideson, alongside contributions from the local community.
“There are so many things that need to be celebrated this year, so our mural fuses many meaningful messages on a local, national and even international level – 110 years of Canberra, our local indigenous communities, world pride and of course, 60 years of Monaro Mall,” says Canberra Centre General Manager Gary Stewart.
“We’ve engaged two extremely talented artists to complete the commemorative art piece and have invited members of the local community to make their own contribution too.”
Artists Filmer and Brideson will be adding the finishing touches to the mural within the next week, alongside a select group of First Nations peoples and people who identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community.
Celebrating 60 Years of Canberra Centre
For Canberra Centre, a significant piece of the mural’s focus is on the history of Monaro Mall, the original Canberra Centre building, which officially turned 60 on the 6th of March, 2023.
In 1963 it was opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies as Australia’s first three-storey, fully enclosed, airconditioned shopping mall.
Around 15,000 people walked through the doors that day, visiting department stores David Jones, Marcus Clarke & Co, alongside Coles New World Supermarket and McEwans Hardware, as well as 58 speciality retailers.
Over the past 60 years, the mall has remained central to Canberra Centre as a destination for fashion and lifestyle, providing locals and visitors with a mix of premier shopping options.
“We have also had many celebrity guests venture through the mall. One of the most notable of which was Skippy who was welcomed by no less than 20,000 people when she visited in September 1969,” says Mr Stewart.
“It was also at the forefront of technology where displays gave Canberrans the opportunity to see television in colour six years before the rest of the country.”
In 1989 the mall was expanded and rebranded as Canberra Centre, with several other renovations occurring throughout its time including a $500 million redevelopment in 2007
2018 saw the completion of another major redevelopment of the original Monaro Mall, that brought the existing building back to its former glory with an award-winning collaboration between Mather Architecture and Universal Design Studio.
Now, the Monaro Mall is listed by the Australian Institute of Architects as one of Canberra’s 20th century significant buildings.
“Extending from our commemorative artistic mural, we’re sharing the story of the original Monaro Mall to celebrate 60 years,” says Mr Stewart.
“Being placed on hoarding of the new transformation works is also a symbolic way of indicating that there are still so many more exciting things to come for this iconic Canberra building – and Australia’s – history.”
About The Artists
Leah is an Aboriginal woman born in Canberra, ACT. Leah’s mob are Kamilaroi from her Grandmother’s country in the Gunnedah region.
Leah’s art practice began in her early childhood. As a self-taught artist, Leah paved her own way in rediscovering and sharing her identity after constantly being told she was ‘too white to be Aboriginal’. She created a visual way to say the words that were going unheard.
Leah refers to her arts practice as ‘visual yarns’; illustrated stories and conversations, connecting people with cultural practices and landscapes, gently hinting nuances of activism and a vehicle for voicing culture, Country and connection. In 2022 she was awarded the ACT and Region NAIDOC Artist of the Year.
Speaking about the project, Leah said “Thank you, Canberra Centre Management, for the opportunity to paint this large scale mural. It is an honour to collaborate with Geoff on this piece that embeds First Nations cultures through representing the surrounding landscape, along with honouring our LGBTQI+ mob.”
“This is the first time I have painted on such a large scale and in a busy public place. I have learned a great deal from Geoff and his team and have engaged in some great conversations with passers-by about the artwork, it’s multiplicity of meanings and the process.”
Geoff is a commercial visual artist based in Canberra.
Having dyslexia did not help Geoff Filmer in his early schooling in Canberra's south. Yet it has enriched his artistic journey, as he saw his parents’ determination to support him with technology and art to give him every chance to grow to his full potential.
While art was prominent in his life from a young age, leaving school Geoff worked in several fields, including as a diesel mechanic and setting out instruments for seismic surveys for the Australian Geological Survey organisation.
Art resurfaced in his life when he began painting on legal art spaces throughout Canberra, perfecting his technique and turning people’s eyes. Jaws Automotive, Phillip, had a big wall that kept getting tagged, which he turned into a stunning piece featuring great white sharks. Auto Talk around the corner saw it and enlisted the talented painter. From there an exceptional business was born and Geoff in engaged to create commercial artworks across Canberra.
Speaking about the project, Geoff said “It is so exciting to have an opportunity to work with Leah, to help blend her beautiful first nations art with street art. On their 60th anniversary of the Canberra Centre, I’m so humbled to be a part and their long-standing tradition of supporting Canberra artists to create amazing works in prominent areas.”
“I am so proud to be part of a community that values are diversity and our ability to connect and create great places and ideas.”
Don’t miss taking in this incredible mural next time you’re in centre located on the Ground Level, Ainslie Mall entrance, opposite Superdry.