Australian artist’s unique touch gives Salina a long-awaited attraction

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:14 AM CDT
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SALINA, Kan. (KWCH) - A 122-year-old grain elevator in north Salina is getting a makeover thanks to the Salina Kanvas project and its co-founder, Travis Young.

The project enlisted Australian artist Guido van Helten to put his unique touch on the community through his specialty, photorealistic murals.

“What he does is, he immerses himself into the community and he basically takes photographs of people and takes those images that he captures and makes a design around those images,” Young said of Van Helten, a 35-year-old from Brisbane whose murals have graced structures in Portugal, Jordan, India, Finland, Iceland and many other international locations.

“So what you see on the mural today are actually kids from Salina.”

Van Helten has been in Salina for two months, painting what Young and others in town see as the community’s strength.

“What he captured from being around the community was that it’s a tightknit community,” Young said. “I think the one thing that he told me that was very telling about Salina was that people come here to raise families.” Still, it was an inviting, family-friendly community that Young said didn’t have a defining attraction –something that truly captured Salina’s identity.

“We’ve never really been a place where there is destination, if you will, or something to see,” Young said. We have no Eiffel Tower.”

But now van Helten’s work is the talk of the town. His finished painting will be a 360-degree mural, and the approximate $250,000 cost is being covered by private donors in Salina.

“People drive by here like every day,” Salina resident Boone Cumberland said. “I work at Airgas. so I’m constantly seeing people driving by all the time taking pictures. It’s definitely cool to see everyone coming to this town to see this.”

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