Arts and Culture

The Bird Man

Artist Profile: Alan Peebles

The Bird Man

Artist Profile: Alan Peebles (1929-2022)

It started out as a little art project.

Twenty years ago, local wildlife enthusiast, artist and community advocate Alan Peebles approached Hervey Bay City Council offering to paint the sides of a couple of the city’s bus shelters, using the otherwise blank triangular sides to highlight some of the region’s abundant birdlife, about which he was deeply passionate.

Following a warm reception of Alan’s initial two meticulously hand painted shelters, he undertook decorating a few more. Fast forward six years and Alan had single-handedly adorned every bus shelter across the Hervey Bay area with a bird species endemic to the area. To travel around Hervey Bay by bus was to tour an outdoor gallery of Alan’s works!

Hanging up his paintbrush after his 103rd bus shelter, Alan turned his focus to wildlife documentaries and environmental activism – he was a key figure in the community push to save the Arkarra Tea Gardens from development, as well as the leading force behind the creation of Pir’ri Reserve in River Heads. Transforming the bush reserve into a birdwatcher’s haven, Alan worked tirelessly on the construction of two kilometres of walking track with multiple locations to rest and view the wildlife. This included a peaceful clearing in the centre of the reserve, fittingly called Peebles’ Rest in his honour. Alan Peebles passed away in February 2022, aged 92 – his ashes sprinkled at an intimate gathering of his friends and family in the place he felt most at home, Pir’ri Reserve.

Throughout the 2010s, updates to accessibility requirements for public transport eventually saw wheelchair-friendly shelters replace the original bus shelters adorned with Alan’s birds. However, many of Alan’s artworks live on throughout the region, Council relocating many bus shelters to more rural locales. Now, twenty years after picking up his paintbrush, Alan’s works are making their way indoors for the first time, with a selection of 30 murals featured in an exhibition honouring his life’s work at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery (HBRG). Alan Peebles: Bird Man celebrates Alan’s bus shelter project by presenting the best of the bird murals alongside his self-published wildlife documentaries, combining art and wildlife education in honour of Alan’s legacy.

After relocating to the Fraser Coast in 2022, HBRG’s Curator Dr. Llewellyn Millhouse was captivated by stories of Alan’s advocacy for the town he loved.

“One of the first artworks I saw in the Fraser Coast was an Alan Peebles bird mural on my street that I noticed while moving in.

“When I began to investigate the story of how this painting came to exist,

“I was blown away by the generosity, vision and community spirit of Alan’s bird mural project.

“I could not imagine a better example of how art can make a positive impact on our community.”

Hearing of Alan’s passing just a few months prior to Hervey Bay Regional Gallery’s reopening, Dr. Millhouse was highly motivated to bring Alan’s bird murals into the gallery. The resulting exhibition is sure to be a hit with long term residents of Hervey Bay, a charming and idiosyncratic portrait of Hervey Bay through the eyes of one of its prominent advocates.

Alan Peebles: Bird Man Sat 9 Sep – Sun 12 Nov at Hervey Bay Regional Gallery.


Was this page helpful?