Shehzar Abro Marcus Westbury mural a tribute to changing Newcastle

HIS fingerprints have been all over Hunter Street mall for a decade, but a new mural has made Marcus Westbury’s face part of the landscape he transformed. 

Artist Shehzar Abro, 19, emblazoned the Renew Newcastle founder on a wall near the corner of Thorn Street in tribute to the “completely transformative” influence Westbury has had on Hunter Street.

The artwork depicts his face emerging through a historic image of the mall under a striking, colourful sky that vividly represents change.

Mr Abro, who works inside the adorned building from The Roost, said he was inspired by how Westbury’s simple concept had altered the mall’s fortunes.

“People say there are better people to paint but the whole point of making this mural is not to glorify someone who has already been glorified but to pay tribute to someone who struggled,” he said. 

“It’s really to encourage ordinary people to come up with extraordinary ideas.”

It is the first Australian mural for the Cooks Hill Galleries employee and RAW artist, who has an online following of more than 57,000 people tracking his work. 

Mr Abro, who is a proponent of the Karachi Biennale and has curated a not-for-profit gallery in that city, came to the Hunter seven months ago.

He arrived on a hospitality TAFE scholarship but hopes to turn to studying animation eventually.

He said the region’s creativity had taken him by surprise after an online search before arriving yielded just a handful of galleries. 

“I come from a city of 27 million people so I was expecting something a bit smaller,” he said. “It turns out street art is everywhere.

“There’s really no doubt that for a small place of about 500,000 people Newcastle is a very cultured sort of city.”

The reaction of his subject is an early sign Mr Abro’s mural will be positively received.

“This is an amazing honour,” Westbury declared on social media. “Thank you to all involved.”

Leaving his own mark on that city’s urban landscape was also something Abro was getting his head around after two weeks of mural painting.

 “I felt awesome while walking past this piece of myself in Newcastle, and the idea maybe coming back in a few years to see it is just amazing,” he said. 

“It’s the first of many, hopefully.”

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